Dentists and endodontists carry out over 15 million root canal treatments every year. This procedure helps remove infected or damaged pulp from a tooth, sealing the remaining cavity with a filling. A root canal treatment is a relatively simple, safe procedure, but if you have certain allergies, your dentist may need to take certain precautions. If you or a loved one has an allergy to rubber latex, find out what you need to do if your dentist suggests a root canal treatment.
How rubber latex allergies affect your body
Rubber latex allergies are relatively common in the United States, and the American Latex Allergy Association estimates that around 3 million people suffer with this problem. What's more, some people are at higher risk. For example, around 68 per cent of children with spina bifida also have this allergy, and up to 17 per cent of health care workers develop the problem due to their exposure to the material.
You can suffer an allergic reaction to latex when antibodies in your body react to the proteins in these products. The reaction can occur through skin contact or inhalation, and symptoms can vary. Some people come out in a rash, while others suffer asthma-like symptoms. In severe cases, you can suffer from serious anaphylaxis, which can cause death.
How root canal treatment can expose you to latex rubber
Dentists routinely carry out root canal treatments almost every day, but the process can potentially expose you to rubber latex in several ways.
- The dentist or dental nurse may use sterile latex gloves. Your skin is then likely to come into contact with the material.
- To make it easy to carry out the work on your tooth, your dentist will normally use a rubber dam. This is a sheet of latex that the dentist clamps around the tooth. The latex can then easily touch your lips and mouth, causing a reaction.
If you have a latex allergy, just a few tiny particles can cause a reaction. Even if a dentist used latex with an earlier patient, you can still come into contact with particles in the surgery.
Managing the risk during the procedure
It's important to tell your dentist if you have a latex allergy. He or she can use latex-free equipment in the surgery at all times, and you can also use latex-free dental dams during a root canal treatment. Make sure you tell your dentist about any history of latex allergy for you or anybody else in your family. You may suffer from the problem without even knowing, particularly if you haven't seen any symptoms before.
Your dentist can also use rubber-free endodontic instruments. For example, some tools normally have rubber stoppers on the end, so your dentist will switch to another variety. Your dentist will probably also suggest that you book the first appointment of the day, so he or she has not yet used any latex-based equipment or supplies.
The risk of gutta-percha
After they remove diseased material from the root canal, dentists fill the cavity with a material called gutta-percha. Some people believe that people with a latex allergy can have an allergic reaction to the gutta-percha.
According to the American Association of Endodontists, only two patients have suffered from a hypersensitive reaction to the gutta-percha that dentists use during a root canal treatment. Indeed, in both cases, evidence suggests that these medical problems actually occurred because of cross-contamination from other latex-based equipment.
Research by the American Latex Allergy Association shows that gutta-percha does not cause an allergic reaction in patients. Tests show that the material is inert and does not present a health risk to people with the allergy. The research indicates that there is a small risk of allergen exposure if dentists mix gutta-percha with other materials.
Gutta-percha can sometimes cause problems in patients that some people mistakenly believe is an allergic reaction. If the gutta-percha extends beyond the root canal, patients may experience pain, but this is not an allergic reaction.
Root canal treatments present some unique risks to people with a latex allergy. That aside, as long as you talk to the professionals at places like Schererville Family Dentistry, PC, he or she can help you effectively manage these risks and avoid any unwanted complications.