GrapevineOct/Nov 2008 Issue

Avoiding Common Dental Allergens

Dental Allergens

Getting your teeth cleaned by a dentist isn’t usually cause for alarm. But for people with allergies or sensitivities, visiting the dentist can mean exposure, often unwittingly, to problem substances.

I’ve been practicing dentistry since 1978, providing cosmetic, general and reconstructive dentistry in an allergy-friendly, state-of-the-art facility in downtown Chicago. My interest in allergies and sensitivities is both professional and personal. My wife has celiac disease. Before she was diagnosed, she was frequently quite ill with headaches, gastrointestinal distress and general malaise. It wasn’t unusual for her to be bedridden for days at a time.  

We were both delighted when she found that avoiding gluten was the key to restoring her health. Through my wife’s experience with celiac disease, I discovered, quite accidentally, that routine dental cleaning may expose patients to gluten. My wife’s celiac symptoms would return every time her teeth were cleaned. It took a while to find the source of her reaction but after we did, I was able to confirm that most polishing agents, including the brand I used in my office, contain gluten. My office has used only gluten-free polishing paste ever since.

Gluten isn’t the only substance that may cause problems. Here are some of the other materials commonly used in dental offices that patients may be sensitive to:

  • Acrylic Acrylic is used to make temporaries for crowns, implants and veneers. Your dentist can substitute composite material that’s acrylic free.
  • Epinephrine Most dental anesthetics contain epinephrine, which prolongs the effect of the drug. In sensitive patients, epinephrine produces heightened anxiety and increased heart rate. Ask for an epinephrine-free anesthetic.
  • Eugenol Most cements used to seat temporary dental work contain eugenol, a sedative agent (refined from oil of cloves) that quiets tooth nerves. It can cause local inflammation, tissue damage and generalized allergic response. Ask for eugenol-free cement.
  • Latex This is the allergy dentists see most. If latex is your concern, ask for latex-free polishing angles and latex-free (and powder-free) gloves.
  • Metals Crowns and fillings can be made with metals. All-porcelain restorations are an option for people with metal sensitivities.

Follow these suggestions on your next visit to the dentist:

Speak Up. Let your dentist know if you’ve ever had any sensitivity or negative reaction while undergoing dental care. Interact with him/her during your treatment. Ask questions. Voice your concerns. Don’t be shy.
Know Your Options. Be your own advocate. Understand your health issues and that there are allergy-friendly alternatives to troublesome substances. Inform your dentist in a courteous manner and work together to ensure that you receive the safest dental care.
Update Your Records. Make certain your dentist is aware of your latest health history, including any recent surgeries and medication changes.

Flag Your Chart. Your allergy or sensitivity should be clearly marked in your record and the file should be flagged. LW

Comments (6)

Sandy, I use a 'toothpaste' called Toothsoap. It's awesome. Generally only has 4 ingredients. My main issues are corn, gluten, dairy and eggs. They have an unflavoured toothpaste called Plain Jane.

Posted by: Bernadette L | September 16, 2013 7:16 PM    Report this comment

I think we're OK with fluoride in toothpaste, altho I'd be happier if it wasn't in the drinking water. What I need is a toothpaste which contains no dyes, OR FLAVORING! (natural or otherwise . . . it may have started as a plant, but by the time the flavoring industry gets through with it . . . ! ) Any suggestions?

Posted by: Sandy D | September 10, 2013 7:06 PM    Report this comment

FYI I use a great natural toothpaste by Jason (available at Whole Foods, Mother's, Sprouts, and even some commercial drugstore chains) called Power Smile. It really cleans and whitens my teeth, contains no fluoride or SLS, no propelene glycol. parabens or phthalates. As usual you need to read the label to make sure it's OK for you.
Bottom line: I love it and I don't have to get my teeth cleaned as often :-))

Posted by: liz s | September 10, 2013 3:42 PM    Report this comment

I have been supplied with a mouth guard for Bruxism made with these components:
Ethyl Methacrylate 48%
Hydroquinone 1%
P-Methoxyphenol 1%
Confidential Ingredient A 50% (trade secret)

I requested the list from my dentist who got it from the lab that makes the mouthguards. I was concerned that it may contain BPA and still don't know if any of the ingredients can leach chemicals into the mouth and blood stream of the wearer. Does anyone have facts about this issue.

Posted by: Dolores | September 10, 2013 12:26 PM    Report this comment

I would often have a reaction to the polish used when cleaning my teeth. My gums would end up so tender I could hardly eat until it cleared up. I tried taking my own toothpaste for them to use but that was a foamy mess and didn't get rid of the tea and coffee stains. Now they use straight up pumas and that works well.

Posted by: Cheryle J | September 10, 2013 11:17 AM    Report this comment

I told my dentist about my corn and sulfite allergies. She assured me over and over that there were none in the anesthetic or other materials she used. She was not telling the truth, and I had severe reactions when I went to her. Especially, when she injected the anesthetics which did contain sulfites. She had told me that the FDA had banned sulfites in novocaine years before, but that was a lie. A dental specialist told me the truth about what was used, and I didn't get sick when I went to him. He was very careful about allergens. Needless to say, I never went back to the dishonest dentist.

Posted by: Donnie | September 10, 2013 9:17 AM    Report this comment

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