Do teething gels work and are they safe?

Your baby’s first teeth will start to appear at some time between four and ten months. Teething is a normal developmental process that usually involves mild gum irritation, irritability, and drooling. There may be other physical symptoms that parents assume is linked to teething, but something else could be causing those symptoms. A lot of big changes take place around the time a baby starts to teeth:

  • Often coincides with normal changes in a baby’s immunity around six months
  • An increased chance of catching viral infections as a baby explores their surroundings more
  • Separation anxiety
  • Normal changes in their sleep patterns

A baby’s body temperature may be slightly raised, but there is very little evidence that teething causes fever. Taking all of this into consideration, it’s important that we don’t just presume that signs of illness are due to teething. It may also delay the early detection of a more serious illness.

When a baby is teething, it’s only natural for parents to want to alleviate any symptoms. We pin our hopes on gels, necklaces, and other products, but none of them have been scientifically assessed. Some even carry risks. Find out here if they work and whether they’re safe to give your baby.

Do teething gels work and are they safe?

Teething gels contain a variety of ingredients that help relieve supposed teething-related symptoms. Let’s look a little closer at them.

There have been warnings about products containing choline salicylate, an anti-inflammatory similar to aspirin. It’s the active ingredient in some best-selling teething gels. An overdose can cause nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. This increases the risk of liver disease and brain damage if too much is ingested.

In response to a one year-old suffering seizures and hypoglycemia after chronic choline salicylate poisoning in NSW this month, Genevieve Adamo from the NSW Poisons Information Centre states that “Teething gels are not recommended because there is little evidence to show they are significant in reducing pain, and there are risks associated with them”.

‘Natural’ homeopathic teething solutions also have risks. Some are not even assessed by the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration). A manufacturer recalled their homeopathic teething tablets as a precautionary measure due to the potential safety risk that belladonna (a poisonous plant) alkaloids can pose to children.

There is currently no scientific evidence either that amber teething necklaces work. There are however several widely reported cases of strangulation.

So what are the best options to soothe teething symptoms?

Before you reach for any supposed cures that are not only unproven, but are potentially dangerous, consider the following remedies:

  • Give your baby plenty of cuddles and attention. This is a time when they will need extra comfort and reassurance.
  • Offering a safe teething ring, mitt, or toy may provide some relief. Teething toys are strictly regulated by Australian Standards.
  • Apply gentle pressure with a cooled (not frozen) clean washcloth.
  • Rub a clean finger on their gums.

Teething can be a challenging time, but it does pass. Before administering any medication, always check with your GP first. Do your research, and don’t assume a product is safe just because it’s widely available.

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