Bite-sized fun facts about penguins' mouths
20th January 2021
January 20th is usually a suitably chilly day in the northern hemisphere for us to think about those natives of… read more
This is certainly news worth sharing if you know someone who has a teething baby. At some time or other, many parents use pain relief products bought from a local chemist. Most of us don’t look at the list of teething gel ingredients – I know I never did. I trusted well known brands to offer me a safe product. Yet, since January 2019, in the UK teething gel has been taken off the unmonitored shelves, and can only be bought over the counter under advisement.
Therefore, it’s worth considering what’s in teething gels, whether it’s necessary to use it and what alternatives there are.
As baby’s first teeth begin to come though, whether they are the very first front teeth, or the larger back teeth, they have to break through the surface of the gums, which often causes some discomfort. Most babies start teething any time between five to ten months. In rare cases, some babies are born with natal teeth or develop neo-natal teeth within the first few weeks, but that’s even more unusual. Some babies develop their teeth later too. Babies usually have their full set of twenty first teeth by their third birthday.
The signs of an erupting baby tooth vary, but may include some or all of:
Teething babies are also just as susceptible to illness as they are at other times.
Monitor your baby as usual if there are other concerns, such as, but not limited to, diarrhoea and/or vomiting, a rash, coughing or a high temperature. Always contact your healthcare professionals for advice if you are concerned for your baby’s health. In England, the National Health Service helpline is available 24/7 by freephone on: 111.
As teething can be uncomfortable for the baby, and disturbing for parents, there are a range of pain relief treatments available – including teething biscuits, rings, toys, granules and gels.
The decision for carers is what to use to try to ease the pain and help both baby and parent feel calmer.
An article published in the British Dental Journal, on 27th September 2019, investigates the ingredients of teething gels, and other teething pain relief products.
The active ingredient approved for use in teething gels in the UK, is Lidocaine Hydrochloride. It’s a synthetic chemical compound, used as a local anaesthetic. Applied directly to the surface of tissue, it causes numbness and dulls feeling.
In teething gels, the concentration of Lidocaine is low. Of teething gels licenced for use in the UK, a product called Anbesol Teething Gel had the highest concentration of Lidocaine, at 1%w/w, compared to several products with the lowest quantity at 0.33%. It is worth noting that the well-known Bonjela Teething Gel has 0.33%, yet the Bonjela Junior Gel has 0.5%, so it’s worth checking the details and making the appropriate choice.
In addition, often teething gels include an antiseptic compound called Cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC) regularly found in mouth washes, toothpastes, nasals sprays and throat lozenges. It’s an effective ingredient for tacking oral bacteria and plaque, but in higher dose medicines has been linked to discolouration.
When getting a gel, it’s also worth looking at the list of excipients. It’s likely that Ethanol is the main carrier of the solution. It’s alcohol, distilled from plant materials.
Of course, these gels come in small tubes, and only a smear is used. Clear instructions will explain quantity and frequency of use, to keep the product safe. As with all medications, if you notice an allergic reaction, such as swelling or a rash, or any unexpected response, discontinue use immediately and consult your doctor.
The UK approved teething powders and granules are classified as either homeopathic or herbal. With these, though, what we need to look out for is the inclusion of sucrose. That’s sugar. As the sachet is emptied into baby’s mouth and the contents combine with the saliva, caoting the gums and any teeth, it will encourage bacteria to form plaque. Therefore, especially for older babies with more advanced dentition, it’s worth finding a brand that is sugar-free or using an alternative.
It’s good to avoid:
To relieve pain:
With a few alternative strategies up our sleeves, we may be able to reduce the need for gel.
We should keep in mind too, that if we read the labels and follow the instructions these medications are licensed and considered safe. They can be an enormous help so parents and baby pass a more peaceful and relaxed night, which is important.
Our community outreach team visits local schools to help children learn about oral health and value their teeth.
Practices providing NHS care, are encouraging parents to register their children. We’re supporting government initiatives such as Dental Check by 1 and Starting Well.
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During the current restrictions we're here to help you receive the face-to-face care you need from your dental team.
Access our free remote advice and triage service:
Patients often ask: