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Latex Allergies and Dental Care

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If you are allergic to latex, let your dentist know about your condition before your appointment so that the dental staff can follow the practice's latex-free protocol.

Latex is made from the sap of the rubber tree, and can be found in many household products and medical and dental supplies such as gloves, masks, and syringes.  Some people can develop an allergy to latex after repeated exposure to latex products.  When a person is allergic to latex, his or her immune system overreacts when latex comes into contact with a mucous membrane.  Since dentists wear latex gloves and are in regular contact with the mucous membranes of the mouth, dental patients need to be especially vigilant in alerting their doctors to any latex allergies.

Latex allergies can present in three types of reactions: irritant contact dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis, and immediate allergic reaction.  An irritant contact dermatitis reaction results in skin abnormalities such as itching, burning, dryness, scaling, and lesions.  Allergic contact dermatitis is a delayed reaction to the additives used in latex processing, and can cause similar symptoms as irritant contact dermatitis.  With this type of reaction, however, the symptoms are more severe, more widespread, and can last for longer.  The most serious form of latex allergy reaction is an immediate allergic reaction.  This may present such symptoms as a runny nose, cramps, severe itching, or hives.  In some very rare cases, patients who have severe allergic reactions to latex may progress to anaphylaxis, which is life-threatening.  If you believe you are experiencing an allergic reaction to latex, make immediate contact with your dentist or doctor, call 911, or proceed to the nearest emergency room.

According to the Cleveland Clinic1, certain people are at a higher risk for developing a latex allergy.  People who have the following conditions have an elevated risk of developing an allergy to latex:

  • Allergies to chestnuts, avocados, kiwis, tomatoes, or bananas
  • A deformed urinary tract or bladder
  • Defects in bone marrow cells (myelodysplasia)
  • Exposure to rubber dams used in dental procedures
  • A history of multiple surgical procedures
  • Exposure to rubber-tipped catheters
  • A history of allergies, asthma, or eczema

There is no cure for a latex allergy, but patients can avoid reactions by preventing contact with latex.  If you are allergic to latex, you are advised to let your dentist know about your condition at least one day in advance of a dental appointment so that he or she may follow the practice's latex-free protocol in preparation of your visit.

1The Cleveland Clinic

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