British parents are being warned about the ‘potential dangers’ of popular teething products, which dentists say could put infants’ health at risk.
Anyone who has ever stayed up all night with a teething baby will testify they’ll do almost anything to help soothe the pain, with many turning to teething gels and powders.
But the British Dental Association (BDA) is urging parents to ‘be on alert’, following new research revealing 9 of the 14 teething products contain ingredients with potentially harmful side effects.
The research, published in the British Dental Journal, examined all products currently licensed in the UK by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
The results revealed that of 14 teething products, two contained sucrose, that's table sugar, six contained alcohol and six contained an anaesthetic used to numb tissue called lidocaine.
And those nine products all present risks to little ones. The two products containing sucrose, can pose a risk of decay to emerging teeth when applied repeatedly.
With regards to alcohol, low levels in breast milk have been associated with poor sleep and crying, and moderate levels of which have been linked to impaired motor development.
All six teething gels licensed in the UK contained lidocaine, which also poses a risk of overdose at higher concentrations.
In the United States 22 serious adverse reactions, including deaths, have been associated with lidocaine 2% solution.
Although none of the UK products contain more than 1% lidocaine, there could potentially be a risk of overdose from incorrect use.
Additionally, study authors said there is little evidence that the products are actually effective in reducing teething pain.
Following the research the BDA is calling for no nonsense guidance to help parents navigate the risks, and guide them away from potentially harmful products.
They are also seeking changes to licensing arrangements so harmful ingredients cannot make it into licensed products, without clear evidence on their effectiveness.
Commenting on the findings BDA Chair Mick Armstrong said: “Parents buying teething powders to save infants from distress won’t always realise they’re offering their kids sugars, alcohol or lidocaine.
“Buying a licensed product should offer confidence you’re making a safe choice. The reality is consumers are navigating a minefield of potentially harmful ingredients.
“We need to see real change in the way these products are licensed and marketed, and clear guidance so parents understand the risks.”
He also had some suggestions for parents about easing their child’s pain while teething.
“If your little one is suffering then a teething ring kept cool in the fridge is all you need.”
Commenting on the new research, John Smith, Chief Executive of Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB), the UK trade association representing manufacturers of branded over-the-counter medicines PAGB Chief Executive, said: “We welcome new research on over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, however these findings should not concern or worry parents.
“All OTC medicines in the UK are rigorously assessed for safety and efficacy before they are licensed and are monitored once on the market. As an industry, we take very seriously the information provided to consumers about over-the-counter medicines to make sure people have the right information to choose a product that meets their needs.
“The products considered in the study contained alcohol at very low appropriately safe levels, this ensures the product does not spoil and ensures the solubility of the active ingredients. None of the products licensed in the UK contain sucrose.
“The MHRA review of lidocaine hydrochloride in the UK in December 2018 concluded that lidocaine is an appropriate second line treatment for teething pain in children over five months when used according to instructions.
“Lidocaine teething gels are available from pharmacies in the UK, which means people can receive advice from an expert healthcare professional when purchasing the product.
Smith goes on to say that pharmacists are expert healthcare professionals and are best placed to advise parents and caregivers of when and how lidocaine teething products should be used.
“Parents and carers must always read the label and follow the dosage instructions very carefully to ensure that they give the right amount for the child’s age and weight,” he continues.
“It is also vital that parents and carers store all medicines safely out of the reach and sight of children and put them away immediately after every use.”
Official NHS guidance acknowledges that babies respond in different ways to teething remedies.
“Every baby is different, and you may have to try a few different things until you find something that works for your baby,” the site reads.
As well as teething rings, the NHS recommends paracetamol and ibuprofen for relieving the pain as well as distracting babies with play or comfort.
“If your baby is in pain, you may want to give them a sugar-free painkilling medicine,” the site says.
“Paracetamol or ibuprofen can be given to relieve teething symptoms in babies and young children aged 3 months or older.”
Like the BDA, the NHS points to the lack of evidence that teething gels and powders are an effective treatment for teething pain.
“There's a lack of evidence that teething gels are effective,” the site says. “It's recommended that parents try non-medical options for teething first, such as a teething ring.”