An allergic reaction is caused by our immune systems being sensitive to a specific substance (also called an allergen). An allergic reaction occurs when you make contact with, inhale, swallow, or inject a substance into your body that causes your immune system to produce a reaction. Many allergic reactions are quite  mild, such as hay fever while others can cause breathing or swallowing to stop, and be life threatening. It is believed 1 in 5 people in America are susceptible to allergies of some kind. There are some common dental products that can cause allergic reactions that we should all be aware of.

Allergic Reaction During Dental Care

The dental office utilizes many types of compounds that could potentially be an allergic issue for you as a patient unless you communicate with your dentist. Some know of their allergies, while others may develop new ones at any time after exposure. The usual first response is itching, redness and irritation of tissue. A rash, or welts may occur, swelling of the face, tongue , lips and/or throat may occur in a severe reaction.  The main potential allergens in a dental office include:

-Latex – This is a natural rubber harvested from trees and used in a wide range of products. Dental products that may have latex include masks, gloves, rubber dams, prophy cups, and some syringes.  The latex gloves are the usual culprit as they may contain powder particles which come into direct contact with the skin and mouth. Prolonged exposure to latex and the dust they shed can trigger an allergic reaction. This reaction can be minor to one that is more severe. Luckily, most dental offices are aware of this allergy today and have non latex gloves available for sensitive patients or have made the switch completely for the safety of all patients.

-Local Anesthesia – A very rare reaction but it does happen to a small subset of the population. Dentists use a variety of local anesthetics based on the need and situtation of the patient. The main anesthetic used is lidocaine. A true allergy to local anesthetic is quite rare and it is usually due to a sensitivity to para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA). That term is quite a handful but it is simply a by product of the local anesthetic. There have also been cases of local anesthetic allergies to preservatives added to local anesthetics. Most patients who report an allergic reaction are not actually allergies, but instead a reaction to the effects of epinephrine. This reaction usually takes the form of a rapid heartbeat or an increase in blood pressure.

-Metals – Metals are used throughout dentistry and can be a  concern for many. The most common form of metal allergy is a nickel allergy. Nickel alloys are used to create a lot of our everyday items, like buttons, buckles, zippers and kitchen ware. Nickel is also found in some 14K and 18K gold, and when you sweat, it draws the nickel out. Stainless steel has nickel in it, too, but it’s usually bound so tightly that it won’t affect even the most allergic person. But very allergic people can react to the nickel present in some food items, which include nuts, chocolate, tea, coffee, beer and apricots. Dentists can avoid nickel allergies by the use of dental crowns with no nickel content as well as using orthodontic brackets made of ceramic.

-Pine, Mint- Most fluoride varnishes, not pastes, contain natural pine to make them stick to the teeth. Many dental items are flavored with mint oil to make them taste better. Many people are allergic to pine or mints such as spearmint, peppermint, and cinnamon.

-Acrylic Monomer- Acrylic is used in temporary crowns, and removable dentures. The liquid used to activate and harden the acrylic can cause severe allergic reactions to those susceptible.

Dental Allergies Conclusion

Allergies can develop over time, so it is important to tell your dentist if you notice any allergic type reactions during or after your dental appointment. Also, if you know before any dental treatment that you have any allergies you should tell your dentist so the proper materials can be used to avoid an allergic response. The main goal of any dental treatment is to take care of your dental health and not to compromise it. With a little knowledge and good communication, dental allergy issues can be addressed and avoided altogether. An allergist can test you to help determine what you should avoid to prevent an allergic response.