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Allergies at the Dentist

Types of Allergies Could Occur at the Dentist

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Updated October 26, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Going to the dentist for a routine teeth cleaning doesn’t rank very high on most people’s priority lists. Many of us delay going to the dentist for lots of reasons, including the need to have a painful procedure performed. Some people may have a legitimate excuse for not going to the dentist, though -- they may experience an allergic reaction while there. From latex allergy to local anesthetic allergy to allergic reactions to bridges and fillings, some people may be getting more than they bargained for with a trip to the dentist.

Latex Allergy

Latex is the major ingredient in most rubber products, and it is commonly found in items used in the health care industry, including in latex examination gloves. Some people may develop an allergy to latex, with exposure resulting in potentially serious reactions including hives, itching at the site of contact or all over, tightness of the throat, wheezing, difficulty in breathing, and anaphylaxis. Such an allergic reaction could conceivably occur when going to a dentist who wears latex examination gloves.

Local Anesthetic Allergy

Reactions to local anesthetics are relatively common, although they may not always be caused by a true allergy. Symptoms occurring after the use of local anesthetics may also be caused by anxiety, hyperventilation, as well as side effects to epinephrine, which is frequently added to local anesthetics to make the numbing effect last longer.

Preservatives added to local anesthetics, called methylparabens, are a more common cause of allergic reactions to local anesthetics. Since going to the dentist may mean the need for fillings, the use of local anesthetics may trigger allergic reactions in susceptible individuals.

Contact Dermatitis to Dental Work

There are many chemicals and materials used in the dentist’s office that are capable of causing contact dermatitis, both on the face, lips, and on the gums.

Ingredients in dental amalgam (including mercury), bonding or porcelain can result in redness, swelling and irritation of the gums. Flavorings found in mouthwashes, toothpastes and fluoride treatments could also cause itchy rashes inside the mouth or on the skin around the lips. Lastly, dental dams containing rubber compounds, usually other than latex, can result in contact dermatitis around the mouth. A number of potential contact allergens are present at the dentist office -- exposure to these may result in reactions around the mouth, on the lips, or inside the mouth.

Sources:

Beltrani VS, Bernstein IL, Cohen DE, Fonacier L. Contact Dermatitis: A Practice Parameter. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2006;97:S1-38.

Berkun Y, Ben-Zvi A, Levy Y, et al. Evaluation of Adverse Reactions to Local Anesthetics: Experience with 236 Patients. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2003;91:342-5.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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