Got into a discussion with some other mommies yesterday about Clay’s amber teething necklace. While they are the cutest little baby jewelry around and sure do look cute, do they really do anything? Is amber the secret to a happily teething baby or just another gimmick? Because I’m a nerd who loves to read and I hate to be fooled, I decided to see what I could find for hard evidence on the topic.
The theory behind the amber teething necklace is that when baby wears it, his body heat triggers the release of a minute amount of oil that contains succinic acid, a naturally-occurring substance in the body. When the oil is absorbed, advocates say, it has an analgesic effect on swollen, sore gums (Heidi Murkoff, What to Expect 2017). But what evidence beyond anecdotal is there to support this claim? Moms swear by this remedy and you can find numerous testimonials to this effect everywhere you look. And it’s not just crunchy or new-age moms- this is a mainstream trend these days.
A review of PubMED and MEDLINE, two online medical journals, however, shows no actual scientific studies conducted on the efficacy of amber teething necklaces. The only thing that has been studied are the dangers of them as strangulation and choking hazards. Here’s the Wiki on Succinic acid, which does make passing reference to it’s anti-inflammatory properties, but it’s honestly kind of hard to believe that one could get a high enough dosage out of this tiny necklace to make a difference, or that absorption through the skin is an effective method of delivery for this minute dosage. Even the Wiki on Oils of Amber has a measly one paragraph on historical medicinal uses- you’d think there would be a lot more on something that’s been encapsulating mosquitos since the dinosaur age! One article I did read says that baltic amber degrades into acetic acids (vinegar) and I had been noticing my son smelled like vinegar since wearing his necklace- makes sense now! (John Snyder, Science-Based Medicine 2014).
I searched and searched today through my library’s online journal articles, the always informative, if not always legit, interwebs and various blogs and mommy boards and I can’t find one scholarly article showing that this super cute trend is actually treating my baby’s teething pain. I do find a lot warning me to be careful that I don’t kill my baby with one, though. I never tried the amber necklace with my four year old, Emma, but I thought it could be worth a try with my 9 month old, Clay, as what I thought worked well with Emma, Hyland’s teething tablets seem to be little more than powdered sugar and belladonna, but have been banned by the FDA. And Clay looks just so adorable in his teething necklace and cloth diaper, but now I just don’t know!
Tell me, people- what are your thoughts and experiences? Is there evidence out there I’m just not seeing and if so, why aren’t actual scientists studying it? Is it the power of suggestion, like a placebo effect? If I believe in it, does it make it true? Have I just ruined the magic?! If I’m being scholarly, I have to think that amber teething necklaces are a hoax- a super cute, very fashionable, adorable hoax, but not one that is going to relieve the painful teething symptoms of my poor baby. But, for today, I think I’ll think with my heart, remain in La-La land and continue thinking that positive thoughts and good looks really do bring happiness to my adorable jewelry clad little man! How about you- does your baby subscribe to this fad and why?