Science advances, and with it more and more myths and traditions that, far from being of real use in the area of health, are based on old beliefs with no rigorous basis, are being banished. Even so, products and home remedies continue to be recommended and marketed that not only are not useful for their supposed purpose, but may also have certain contraindications and risks.
Within this definition, the worst ones are undoubtedly those intended for the youngest members of the household, as they are also the ones that usually entail the most risk. For example, in the case that concerns us today: amber necklaces.
What are amber baby necklaces?
Perhaps this is news to many readers of our blog and they are wondering what are amber necklaces for babies and, above all, what do they have to do with dentistry. According to a - false, as we will demonstrate - tradition, amber necklaces relieve the pain of teething in babies.
Those who believed in this form of 'gemmotherapy' claimed that the beads made from these plant-based fossil resins, when in contact with the skin, released analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. Some even included small chewing pieces for the baby, with the obvious risk that this entailed.
The theory goes that these resins, being partly composed of succinic acid, release these properties on contact with skin cells. However, scientific evidence shows several things that disprove this belief. Firstly, to get succinic acid from amber, it has to be melted at around 200 degrees Celsius in a safe laboratory environment, a far cry from simply bringing it into contact with the skin. One of the studies carried out on this subject tried dipping amber beads in saline solutions, but the acid was not measurable, as there was not enough of it.
Moreover, the acid in its pure state is toxic to cells when applied in high concentrations. In other words, not only is there no scientific evidence to show that the succinic acid in amber has anti-inflammatory properties, but it is also impossible to release it from the beads on contact with human skin.
Risks of amber baby necklaces
The risks of using amber necklaces to relieve teething pains in babies are relatively obvious despite their widespread use. As any paediatrician could tell us, during the first years of life the use of necklaces and bracelets is nothing short of foolhardy. Babies, especially during their first year of life, play with everything within reach, including sucking and chewing on anything they can get their hands on, as any parent will attest.
Therefore, wearing a beaded collar carries risks of strangulation or cuts as well as choking and suffocation.
Ways to reduce teething pain in babies
Having clarified our professional opinion on the use of amber necklaces for babies, one might ask: what would a paediatric dentist recommend to alleviate teething pains?
Teething toys, for example, authorised and available in pharmacies, with the relevant European health checks and the backing of health professionals, are a good and real alternative. They help reduce discomfort, but also soothe and distract them while they are suffering, so they are a winning option.
We can also massage the gum with gauze (which they will end up biting too) and apply cold directly to the gum. In fact, we can combine several of these options, cooling a wet gauze in the fridge or buying special teethers with a liquid inside that can be refrigerated.
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