The BDA has urged parents to be on alert, as new research has revealed that 9 of the 14 teething products licensed for use in the UK contain sucrose, alcohol and/or lidocaine, all of which have potential harmful side effects. There is little evidence that the products are actually effective in reducing teething pain.
The paper published in the British Dental Journal, examined all products currently licensed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The MHRA categorises teething powders as homeopathic or herbal products, whereas most teething gels, with the sole exception of Nelson's Teetha Teething Gel, hold full product licences.
Two products containing sucrose (table sugar) leave newly erupted baby teeth susceptible to decay, particularly as they are applied directly and repeatedly to the teeth. Six contain alcohol. Consumption of relatively low levels through breast milk can be counterproductive, arousing rather than sedating infants, meaning an increased propensity for crying and poor sleeping. Moderate exposure has been related to impaired motor development.
All six teething gels licenced 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.
The BDA has backed calls for no nonsense guidance to help parents navigate the risks, and guide them away from potentially harmful products, and for changes to licensing arrangements so harmful ingredients cannot make it into licensed products without clear evidence on their effectiveness.
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.
"If your little one is suffering then a teething ring kept cool in the fridge is all you need."