Thursday

Allergic Reactions that Can Occur in a Dental Office


Everyone has to take care of their teeth.  This essential maintenance, including regular brushing, flossing, and rinsing (with mouthwash), as well as biannual cleanings, filling cavities, and attending to problems immediately (pain and sensitivity, cracks, and so on) helps to ensure that natural teeth remain strong and intact for many years to come so that patients don’t have to worry about meeting the most crucial necessity of sustaining life (eating, of course).  And dentists play a big role in making this happen.  Although many people face anxiety about the pain of dentistry, finding a dentist that inspires confidence and reduces stress can make all the difference.  However, dentists have no way of knowing when patients might suffer an allergic reaction, so it pays to be aware of potential allergens in a dental office setting.

An allergy to rubber-based substances like latex (used mainly in protective gloves, but possibly in other areas, as well) is surprisingly common.  Symptoms generally occur on areas of the skin where there has been contact with latex and can include redness, itching, and even rashes or hives, depending on the severity of the allergy.  However, contact may not be needed for a reaction to occur; sometimes all it takes is breathing in particles released into the air when gloves are removed, and this could lead to respiratory issues like coughing, sneezing, congestion, and itching in the sinuses.  In extreme cases, a patient could even go into anaphylactic shock, where airways swell, potentially leading to loss of consciousness and even death.  At that point, emergency medical attention is necessary.

Metal allergies are also common (in fact, they are the second most common skin allergy) and since there are plenty of metal instruments and substances used in dentistry, it’s not surprising to encounter this type of allergic reaction.  Nickel, silver, gold, and mercury have all been used in modern dentistry (although mercury has been phased out, for obvious reasons) and all of them could be to blame for allergies in patients.  Redness, swelling, and rash are the most common symptoms (although blistering may also occur) and they tend to occur within several hours of contact.  Luckily, they are fairly easy to identify and treat.

Then, of course, there is novocaine.  When a patient has an allergic reaction to any type of anesthesia, it can be scary for both the patient and the dental staff, even if it’s only a local (rather than general) anesthetic.  For starters, this type of allergy is exceedingly rare, so it may be the first time all parties present have dealt with it.  For another thing, the type of reaction that occurs can be terrifying, with symptoms like sweating, shaking, heart palpitations, and even fainting occurring.  And if a patient is already anxious, this could even induce a panic attack.  The trick is to stay calm.  In most cases, what seems to be an allergic reaction is nothing more than a harmless adrenaline rush caused by epinephrine in the novocaine injection.  But if it is a true allergy, the patient may require immediate medical attention.  And of course, later testing by an allergist in order to pinpoint the cause of the reaction will be necessary.

Most allergies are identifiable and treatable.  Home allergens can be addressed with air purifiers and Allergy Armor Ultra bedding, for example, while outdoor allergies could be treated with prescription medications or desensitization therapy.  And allergies that occur in a dental office are no different.  So if patients suffer an allergic reaction to something in the environment, the simple solution is for them to be tested so that future contact with these allergens can be avoided.

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