Going to the Dentist When You Have a Latex Allergy

Estimates vary when it comes to the percentage of the population affected by a latex allergy, but it's thought to be an issue for around 4.3% of the global population. Many instances of a latex allergy resemble contact dermatitis—a rash that's likely to be extremely itchy. More extreme cases can result in pustules on the skin. Even more extreme cases can lead to an all-over rash and even respiratory distress. If you've been diagnosed with a latex allergy, how do you navigate something seemingly as straightforward as dental care?

Inform Your Dentist of Your Diagnosis

Anyone with a latex allergy needs to inform their dentist, well ahead of any scheduled appointment. This allows the dental clinic to update their files, ensuring that latex-free treatment is performed. Depending on the severity of your allergy, you might need to contact the clinic shortly before any scheduled appointment, as they may need to temporarily implement a latex-free protocol in the clinic to accommodate you, ensuring that any latex items are safely secured for your visit. Because, of course, there's ordinarily a lot of latex at the dental clinic. 

Common Latex Tools and Products

Although the allergy itself is relatively rare, you're unlikely to be the clinic's first patient with the condition. There are many latex tools and products that your dentist must substitute for any patient with a latex allergy. 

  • Latex gloves making direct contact with your teeth and gingival tissues are obviously out of the question.
  • Dental dams are rubber sheets with a small opening in the centre, placed over the tooth being treated in order to isolate it—allowing the tooth to protrude through the opening. These are typically made of latex.
  • Anyone needing a root canal (the removal of infected dental pulp) must have the centre of their tooth filled to stabilise it. Gutta-percha is the standard filling material for an empty pulp chamber, and this is a type of latex.

This is just a small selection of the ways in which you may encounter latex in a dental clinic. Please rest assured that non-latex substitutes are available.

Although a latex allergy can be very serious, dental clinics (and other medical facilities) have protocols in place to avoid affected patients from having an allergic reaction. Remember to update your dentist if you develop such an allergy, and give them advance warning of your visit to ensure that these protocols are activated.