My little boy is having a really hard time with teething pain. Is it safe to use benzocaine gel on my baby’s gums?
Dr. Greene’s Answer:
Benzocaine teething gels are a mixed blessing. They do reduce pain, but they can also leave a baby’s mouth feeling as if he has just been to the dentist. Some babies are happy with the pain relief, but others object to the swollen, numb sensation as much as they do to the pain. Either way, the effect of these gels is very short-lived. And they do carry a small risk of allergic reactions and decreased gag reflexes.
There are also very rare and mostly in the first three months of life reports of benzocaine causing a potentially deadly blood disorder called methemoglobinemia. In this condition, oxygen delivery to the body is impaired, causing a child to turn blue. Most of these cases involved inhaled benzocaine, but teething gels have been associated with a few cases. Because of the risk for this serious condition, it’s important for parents to be careful when using products with benzocaine. Benzocaine-containing products should be stored in a location that prevents access to these medications by children. When used, the amount of benzocaine administered should be closely monitored.
Last reviewed: February 26, 2013