What to Know About Teething Tablets for Babies

teething baby
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There is nothing quite as upsetting and exhausting as parenting a teething baby. Teething babies will fuss, scream, cry, and keep you up all hours of the night. It can start as early as three months—and can last until your child is two years old.

Although your baby won’t be teething the entire time their teeth are coming through, that’s a long time to be dealing with an on-and-off cranky baby. Some babies seem to fare OK with teething, but many do not and that can be really frustrating for parents.

You want to soothe your poor baby, but you don’t know the best way to do so. As you hunt around for the best possible remedies, it's quite possible that you’ve come across teething tablets or teething gels—homeopathic products advertised to soothe teething babies.

You may have heard conflicting things about these tablets. For some parents, they can be a lifesaver, but others say they are dangerous for babies. So what is the truth here? Are teething tablets something you should offer your baby?

What Are Teething Tablets?

Teething tablets have been around since the early 1900s and are now manufactured by various companies and sold online and in some drug stores.

They are small white pellets made of homeopathic ingredients that can be easily dissolved in your baby’s mouth or mixed in with their milk or water. They are advertised as “fast acting”—guaranteed to put an end to teething woes.

Some parents love that their ingredients are considered homeopathic. Teething tablets are often advertised as not containing any synthetic dyes, artificial flavors, or colors. They also do not contain any OTC medicines such as aspirin or acetaminophen.

Common homeopathic ingredients found in teething tablets may include:

Some homeopathic companies also manufacture teething gels, which contain similar ingredients, such as chamomile, but which are applied directly to the baby’s gums.

Are Teething Tablets Safe?

There are no teething tablets that have FDA approval at this time. In both 2010 and 2017, the FDA released warnings that indicated that some teething tablets may have ingredients that are harmful to babies.

The FDA has been most concerned about certain ingredients found in teething tablets. For example, the FDA warned that teething tablets containing belladonna “pose an unnecessary risk to infants and children” and that parents should not purchase or use any product with this ingredient. The FDA also questioned the levels of coffea cruda (caffeine) in certain homeopathic teething tablets.

To come to this conclusion, the FDA tested homeopathic teething tablets and their ingredients. “Our testing found that the belladonna alkaloids (atropine and scopolamine) content and coffea cruda (caffeine) content is not uniform among the manufactured tablets,” the FDA explains.

Moreover, the FDA has warned of some concerning side effects in infants who have ingested teething tablets. As the FDA explains in a 2016 press release, there have been concerning reports of infants experiencing seizures after consuming teething tablets.

According to the FDA, “consumers should seek medical care immediately if their child experiences seizures, difficulty breathing, lethargy, excessive sleepiness, muscle weakness, skin flushing, constipation, difficulty urinating, or agitation after using homeopathic teething tablets or gels.”

Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center Drug Evaluation and Research, urged parents to seek alternatives to teething tablets.

“Teething can be managed without prescription or over-the-counter remedies,” Dr. Woodcock explained in the 2016 press release. “We recommend parents and caregivers not give homeopathic teething tablets and gels to children and seek advice from their health care professional for safe alternatives.”

Are Teething Tablets Effective?

There are no peer-reviewed studies looking at the effects of homeopathic teething tablets on baby’s teething pain. There are, however, studies which show some positive uses of chamomile, an ingredient in some teething tablets. For example, chamomile may be helpful for soothing upset stomachs and colic. But there is no evidence it can help with teething.

Still, there are many parents who report that teething tablets have been helpful for their babies, which is why some parents feel compelled to give them a try.

Keep in mind that a parent-reported effectiveness is different from a medical recommendation. That’s why if you have any questions about the effectiveness of teething tablets, you should consult your doctor.

Other Teething Products

Besides homeopathic teething tablets—and products containing belladonna specifically—the FDA has warned against products containing benzocaine for soothing teething babies.

As the FDA explains in a press release: “Benzocaine—which, like viscous lidocaine, is a local anesthetic—can be found in such over-the-counter products as Anbesol, Hurricaine, Orajel, Baby Orajel Nighttime, and Orabase. The use of benzocaine gels and liquids for mouth and gum pain can lead to a rare but serious—and sometimes fatal—condition called methemoglobinemia, a disorder in which the amount of oxygen carried through the bloodstream is greatly reduced.”

The FDA notes that the dangers associated with benzocaine are particularly concerning for children under two.

In addition to products containing benzocaine, the use of teething jewelry is also concerning for babies. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises against the use of teething necklaces, anklets, or bracelets, as they can increase your baby’s risk of strangulation, choking, and mouth injury.

How to Soothe Your Teething Baby

AAP notes that babies can begin teething as early as three months—yes, really! As your baby’s teeth start to emerge, their gums may look red and swollen. Sometimes you will even see a small portion of the white of your baby’s tooth start to poke through.

Other signs your baby may be teething include:

  • Excessive drooling
  • General crankiness
  • Chewing on objects or fingers
  • Low grade fever (100.4°F or less—if the temperature is higher, teething isn’t to blame)
  • Some babies may experience loose stools as well (again, this could be the sign of another illness, so check with your doctor if your baby has an upset stomach)
  • Trouble falling asleep and staying asleep

There is nothing quite as heartbreaking as witnessing your teething baby in pain and unhappy. So it’s natural that you’d want to find something—anything—to soothe them. Luckily, there are some simple things you can do to make your teething baby a bit more comfortable.

  • Rub or massage your baby’s gums. Use a washcloth or wet gauze to gently massage your baby’s gums. The pressure can soothe the pain.
  • Buy your baby a teething toy. Teething toys can be very soothing for your baby’s aching gums. The AAP notes that plastic and rubber teething toys should work well and are safe for your baby. However, as noted above, teething necklaces and bracelets should be avoided.
  • Try something cold. A cold or frozen washcloth for your baby to chew on can be very soothing. They help numb the gums and decrease sensations of pain. 
  • Give doctor-approved pain relievers. When nothing else is working, you can consider using an over-the-counter pain reliever. Make sure whatever you use is approved by your doctor and that your doctor has told you what the appropriate dosage is for your baby.

The AAP does not recommend baby teething gels. “Pain relievers intended to be rubbed on a baby’s gums aren’t very helpful; a teething baby drools so much that the medication is quickly washed away,” the AAP explains. “In addition, pediatricians warn that such medications can numb the back of the throat and interfere with your baby’s ability to swallow.”

The AAP shares the FDAs recommendation and advises against using any teething products containing benzocaine.

A Word From Verywell

Making decisions for your baby—especially when you are getting conflicting advice—can be very difficult. Whether or not to use a product like teething tablets may be a small choice in the grand scheme of things, but when you are in the middle of deciding what to do for your very cranky baby, it can feel as though you are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Although teething tablets are still being manufactured and sold—usually without the ingredients the FDA found most concerning—the fact is, there are suitable alternatives to teething tablets out there. If you are still considering offering your baby teething tablets, you should consult with your pediatrician before doing so.

As for your baby’s teething situation, as completely exhausting and demoralizing it can be to be parenting an unhappy, uncomfortable baby, remember that like everything else about raising babies, it will pass.

Soon enough the long days and sleepless nights will be a distant memory. And before you know it, your baby will be proudly sporting a new set of pearly whites for all to admire.

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Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • Baby Teething Pain. Healthy Children website. Updated December 20, 2018.

  • Mayo Clinic Staff. Teething: Tips for soothing sore gums. Updated January 9, 2020.

  • Srivastava JK, Shankar E, Gupta S. Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future. Mol Med Rep. 2010;3(6):895-901. doi:10.3892/mmr.2010.377.

  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA warns against the use of homeopathic teething tablets and gels. Published September 30, 2016.