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Dental Health and Latex Allergy

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Latex, also known as rubber or natural latex, is derived from the milky sap of the rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis. Latex can be found in many household products and also in many medical and dental supplies including gloves, masks, and syringes.

Latex allergy develops in some individuals after repeated exposure to products containing natural rubber latex. As is the cause in any allergy, a latex allergy arises when an individual's immune system overreacts to an otherwise harmless substance (called an allergen).

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In this case, the immune system overreacts when a latex-containing dental device or supply -- such as gloves -- comes into contact with the mucous membranes (the eyes, nose, or mouth) of a susceptible individual. Even the powder used on latex gloves can contain the latex proteins and become airborne when the gloves are removed, causing upper airway allergic reactions or asthma symptoms in susceptible people.

What Causes Latex Allergy?

The exact cause of latex allergy is unknown, but repeated exposure to latex and rubber products is thought to trigger symptoms.

Who Is Affected By Latex Allergy?

Other than health care workers, people at increased risk for developing latex allergy include those who have:

  • Myelodysplasia (defects in the bone marrow cells)
  • A deformed bladder or urinary tract
  • A history of multiple surgical procedures
  • Exposure to rubber-tipped catheters (such as a urinary catheter)
  • Exposure to rubber dams (used for certain types of dental procedures)
  • A history of allergies, asthma, or eczema
  • Food allergies to bananas, avocados, kiwis, tomatoes, or chestnuts

What Can Happen as a Result of an Allergic Reaction to Latex?

There are three types of allergic reactions to latex:

  • Irritant contact dermatitis. The least threatening type of latex reaction, this nonallergenic reaction results in dryness, itching, burning, scaling, and lesions of the skin.
  • Allergic contact dermatitis . This is a delayed reaction to additives used in latex processing, which results in the same type of reactions as irritant contact dermatitis (dryness, itching, burning, scaling, and lesions of the skin), but the reaction is more severe, spreads to more parts of the body, and lasts longer.
  • Immediate allergic reaction (latex hypersensitivity) . This is the most serious allergic reaction to latex. Symptoms include runny nose with hay fever-like symptoms, conjunctivitis (pink eye), cramps, hives, and severe itching. Rarely, symptoms may progress to a life-threatening condition known as anaphylaxis -- which is associated with such symptoms as a sudden drop in blood pressure, an increased pulse, tremors, chest pain, difficulty breathing/wheezing, and tissue swelling. If left untreated, this condition could lead to temporary loss of consciousness and potentially even death.
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How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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