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How important are teething tablets?

Teething Tablets and Other Alternative Teething Remedies

Teething tablets, also called teething pellets, are homeopathic alternatives to over-the-counter teething relief and are primarily made by Humphreys Pharmacal and the Standard Homeopathic Company (under the name Hyland's), two companies known for their homeopathic products.

How do tablets and infants go together? The way these work is fast and easy. You'd place two or three of these soft tablets under your child's tongue, where they are designed to dissolve instantly. You can also dissolve them in a teaspoon of water (especially convenient if you would rather not put tablets in the mouth of babes). Tablets can be used four times a day. They are all-natural, made without artificial dyes or flavorings, numbing ingredients (such as benzocaine) or preservatives (such as parabens). The active ingredient list includes chamomile to relieve irritation, coffee seeds for calming, calcium phosphate for growing teeth and belladonna to relieve inflammation.

It's the belladonna that creates controversy about teething tablets.

Belladonna, a plant also known as deadly nightshade, is potentially toxic. Its leaves and roots have been used in medicines -- and poisons -- for thousands of years. Belladonna poisoning affects the nervous system. It can cause agitation, muscle weakness, flushed skin, lethargy and sleepiness, constipation and problems urinating, labored breathing, and seizures. Because of this ingredient, the FDA issued a recall of Hyland's teething tablets in 2010. As of August 2011, they have yet to be reintroduced.

Teething tablets aren't evaluated by the FDA, nor are they recommended by the agency or by health care professionals because, beyond the potential toxicity, belladonna's use has not been proven to be clinically beneficial.

Teething tablets aren't the only alternative teething remedy, though. For those parents who prefer a drug-free teething process, try the remedy long recommended by pediatricians: Rub your baby's tender gums with your (clean, please) finger to help to ease pain. Cold objects for chewing are another safe and drug-free remedy. Frozen rubber teething rings or frozen wet washcloths will help to reduce gum inflammation. Remember, teething is temporary. Break out the ice cubes!