Dr. Moffett’s Teethina teething powder, another in the history of dangerous patent medicines, was a popular teething remedy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Teethina was advertised as a safe and effective way to relieve the pain and discomfort of teething. However, the powder contained mercury – a highly toxic substance. The ingredient containing mercury was referred to with a benign-sounding name “calomel”. As a result, Dr. Moffett’s Teethina was responsible for many cases of mercury poisoning in babies and young children.
Knowingly False Claims
The powder was first marketed in the United States in 1876 by Dr. John Moffett, a physician from New York City. Moffett claimed that Teethina was made from a secret blend of herbs and minerals that were specifically designed to soothe teething pain. He also claimed that the powder was safe for babies and young children, even those who were under six months old.
Now working out of St. Louis, Teethina was a popular teething remedy. It was soon being sold in drugstores and pharmacies all over the country. The powder was also advertised heavily in newspapers and magazines. One of the most famous advertisements for Teethina featured a baby with a pig’s head. The ad claimed that Teethina would help babies gain weight, cure ailments, and make them sleep better.(Some versions were said to contain opium!)
Real Side Effects
However, the claims made for Teethina were not true. The powder contained mercury, which is a highly toxic substance. Mercury poisoning can cause a variety of health problems, including:
Loss of weight (the exact opposite of the product advertising)
Rash (many babies would scratch their own skin to the point of injury)
In some cases, mercury poisoning can be fatal.
Slow to be Outlawed
The dangers of Dr. Moffett’s Teethina were first reported in the medical literature in the early 1900s. (Remember that this guy Moffett was an MD who must eventually have known better!) Nevertheless, the powder continued to be sold until 1938, when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned it.
The ban on Dr. Moffett’s Teethina was a major victory for public health. However, the damage had already been done. Thousands of babies and young children had been poisoned by the powder, and many of them had suffered serious health consequences.
The story of Dr. Moffett’s Teethina is a cautionary tale about the dangers of quack medicine. It is important to be aware of the risks of using unproven remedies, and to consult with a doctor before giving any medication to a child.
- Year Started: 1876
- Year Ended: 1938
- Origin Of Name: Manufactured to include the word “teeth”
- Location Sales: United States
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: John Moffett, M. D.
- Owner While In Use: John Moffett, M. D.
- Owner Successor: N/A
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: N/A
- Naics Code: 325412
- Location Headquarters: St. Louis, Missouri USA