Teething Isn’t That Bad — But Many Teething Remedies Are
Amber necklaces and other popular products meant to ease babies’ discomfort are useless at best and dangerous at worst
The amber teething necklace 18-month-old Deacon Morin was wearing was supposed to ease his teething pain. But as the toddler napped at his Southern California daycare in 2016, he was strangled by the product; after being found unconscious by daycare workers, he was taken to the hospital, dying a few days later.
Amber necklaces have also played a role in other, non-fatal strangulations: In 2015, a mother in Australia reported that her 15-month-old daughter’s necklace had wrapped tightly around her neck while she slept; in 2016, researches published a case study of a similar incident with a 4-month-old in Canada. And this popular device isn’t just unsafe for babies and toddlers — it’s also almost certainly useless. Sellers say that when the beads are warmed by a baby’s body heat, they release a pain-relieving chemical called succinic acid into the skin, but there’s no scientific evidence to support the claim.
Amber necklaces are one of many teething “remedies” that probably do no good, but definitely have potential to harm. In a 2018 statement prompted in part by Morin’s death, the Food and Drug Administration warned about the dangers of amber necklaces, along with any other kind of teething necklace. Besides the risk of strangulation, beads can break off and choke a child. And in one case, a 9-month-old was diagnosed with lead poisoning after she gnawed on a “homeopathic magnetic hematite healing bracelet.”
In 2017, homeopathic teething tablets were recalled after an FDA investigation showed the tablets sometimes included dangerous doses of toxic belladonna. Babies taking these tablets have experienced side effects ranging from lethargy to seizures. And last year, Orajel teething products were recalled after the FDA cautioned that products containing benzocaine can cause methemoglobinemia, a rare condition in which the blood doesn’t carry enough oxygen to the cells. (The FDA also pointed out that products like Orajel, which quickly wash out of the mouth, likely don’t do any good.)