Teething Products – Which Ones Work and Which Ones to Avoid

Teething products

Amber necklaces for teething-what are they and are they safe?
Amber necklaces for teething have become very popular in recent years and are a common sight on babies and toddlers. They consist of little beads of amber resin on a string which is usually worn around a baby’s neck, although they are also worn around a baby’s wrists and ankles. The better quality ones usually have knots in between each bead to reduce the risk of the necklaces breaking and the baby swallowing a bead. However, even if just one section breaks and a single bead become loose, this still presents a danger to the baby. Additionally, anything worn around a baby’s neck still constitutes a strangulation risk, especially when worn at night alone in a crib.1

How are they supposed to work?
There are many ways that amber beads are thought to work. These range from being very implausible, such as the beads activating your baby’s chakras (energy points in the body that have yet to be shown to exist) to a more plausible reason, which is also the most commonly given-that they release a chemical called succinic acid from the amber beads upon contact with the baby’s warm skin providing pain relief for your baby. However, even this mechanism is highly dubious from a medical point of view. Here is why:

  • Succinic acid has never been shown to have any analgesic effect2
  • There is no evidence that succinic acid is released from amber upon contact with warm skin
  • Even if succinic acid did have an analgesic effect and was released upon contact with the skin, the amount that would be absorbed through the skin of the baby would be minuscule as the total surface area of skin touching the beads is small
  • Even if a good amount of succinic acid was able to be absorbed into the body through the skin, the likelihood that it would somehow accumulate in the gums in a high enough concentration to have an effect on pain levels (if succinic acid was indeed an analgesic) is extremely unlikely

Other teething products to be wary of
Additional teething products to avoid, either due to a lack of effectiveness or a risk of harm to your baby, include:

  • Homeopathic teething gels (there is no evidence that homeopathic formulations are effective for teething)
  • Teething tablets which contain belladonna, a potentially dangerous herb 3
  • Gels which contain benzocaine, a potentially dangerous analgesic
  • Gels which contain clove oil (like homeopathic gels, there is no good evidence to support clove oil for treating teething pain in infants, and clove oil is also quite a toxic substance) 4

What are some safe and more effective alternatives?
Consider these alternatives if your baby or toddler is experiencing pain from teething:

  • A refrigerated teething ring or other types of chewy toys 5,6
  • A cold wet flannel
  • Gently massage the sore area of your baby’s mouth with a finger or knuckle
  • Refrigerated fruit pieces (such as an apple) or carrots (if the baby is at the chewing stage)
  • Chilled drinks (water is best)
  • For babies aged 4 months and older, a teething gel which has been especially formulated for infants

Sources:

  1. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/teething-tooth-care/Pages/Amber-Teething-Necklaces.aspx
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Succinic_acid
  3. http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm230761.htm
  4. Sciencebasedmedicine.org. Seperating fact from fiction in pediatric medicine infant teething.
  5. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/teething-tooth-care/Pages/Amber-Teething-Necklaces.aspx
  6. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/teething-tips.aspx
Melody Watson
Melody Watson holds Bachelors degrees in Biochemistry and Microbiology. She works as a medical writer for a medical communications agency in Berlin, Germany, where her work ranges from medical translation to writing publications for medical journals. Melody is passionate about promoting science, including evidence-based medicine, and debunking pseudoscience.

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