By Dr. Azi A. Ardakani, DDS
A growing number of infants and toddlers are being seen around South OC wearing a beautiful, stylish amber stone necklace. Their parents put them on their babies to “assist in the process of childhood teething,” but do they really work?
As a pediatric dentist, I’ve witnessed the teething process all of my professional career – I’ve seen babies teethe throughout the first 2 1/2 years of their lives. The first baby tooth typically erupts between the ages of six to eight months and infants will continue to grow their 20 teeth throughout their first two-and-a-half years. Those brand new pearly whites do penetrate out of the gums with certain level of discomfort and that the level of discomfort may vary from child to child. It is very common to see teething accompanied by natural biological changes including mild fever, increased drooling, changes in feeding habits, some congestion and overall fussiness of the child. Babies oral sensations are much stronger and different than adults and so these changes may be heightened or felt differently by them.
Teething necklaces are made from a fossilized tree resin called Baltic Amber claim to reduce teething pain by releasing Succinic acid. Amber is claimed to release this analgesic compound as the beads come in contact with child’s body heat and are believed to transfer its chemicals through skin and sweat.
What science says
Despite these claims, scientific evidence and research data has demonstrated that no Succinic acid is released from Baltic Amber at body temperature. And even if minute amounts are released, no significant amount will be absorbed by sweat at body temperature. While many parents swear by the efficacy of these pretty baubles, current science definitively debunks the release of Succinic acid from Amber and its analgesic effect on teething babies.
What to watch out for
Unfortunately there have been a number of cases reported of these amber necklaces resulting in strangulation and can pose a choking hazard if they break. The American Academy of Pediatric Medicine and American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry both advise parents against allowing their infants to wear any type of jewelry. But for parents who want to give these necklaces a try, I would encourage that they ensure that the thread or string holding the beads together is not easily broken and make sure the necklace is not long and stretchy enough to cause entanglement around babies neck. Watch your child closely as they wear these necklaces and make sure they are frequently washed and cleaned.
Alternative teething treatments
I really prefer the chewable toys that are specifically made for teething. Bigger sized rubber or plastic teething toys that can’t be swallowed by baby or even cold or frozen cloths are recommended. Frozen fruit (such as banana or apple) can aid in minimizing teething pain and has the bonus of being a nutritious alternative.
If you feel that the teething pain is extreme, mild pain relievers under the consultation and prescription of a Pediatric Dentist or Pediatrician can also help. I would advise against over-the-counter oral gels since case studies report possible GI and stomach side effects. Just remember that the process of teething is very normal – it happens for all infants and it will pass soon. Best of luck to all you mommy and daddies out there who are trying to make this period as smooth as possible for your beautiful baby.