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 Gregory C. Dilger D.D.S.           General Dentist            1353 Edgewater St.          West Salem          (503) 378-0466   

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Latex Allergies

Latex Sensitivities and Dental Care 


Latex sensitivity is an increasingly common problem in the  United States. Currently, there are as many as 17 million Americans sensitized to latex. Occupational exposure to latex has sensitized 8% to 12 % of health care workers. The increase in latex allergy cases has been correlated with prolonged exposure to latex products, primarily through the use of latex gloves.


Latex, also known as rubber or natural latex, is made from the milky sap of the rubber tree. Latex can be found in many household products and in many medical and dental supplies.


A latex allergy can develop in individuals after repeated exposure to products containing natural rubber latex. A latex allergy arises when an individual’s immune system over reacts to an otherwise harmless substance. The immune system can over react when a dental device or supply that contains latex comes into contact with the mucous membranes. Even the powder used in latex gloves can contain the latex proteins that become airborne when the gloves are removed. This can cause an upper airway allergic reaction or asthma symptoms in susceptible people.


What causes a latex allergy? 


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



What can happen as a result of a latex reaction?


There are three types of latex reactions:


Irritant contact dermatitis – This is the least threatening type of latex reaction. This non-allergic reaction results in dryness, itching, burning, scaling, and lesions on 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 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 reaction to latex. Symptoms include runny nose with hay fever-like symptoms, conjunctivitis, cramps, hives, and severe itching, Rarely, symptoms might 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 death.



How is a latex allergy treated?


Reactions might be treated by removal of the latex product and drug treatment according to the type of symptoms developing. If the symptoms are irritant contact dermatitis, antihistamine and/or corticosteroid medicines might be enough to treat symptoms. Severe reactions should be treated with epinephrine, intravenous fluids, and support of hospital or emergency personnel.


If you have a latex allergy, it is important for you to wear a medical alert bracelet and carry an emergency epinephrine syringe. Epinephrine is the treatment used for severe allergic reactions.


There is no cure for a latex allergy; the best treatment for this condition is prevention.



Do I have to take special precautions before visiting my dentist?


If you have a known latex allergy, call us before your scheduled appointment. We have a latex-free protocol that we will follow for patients with latex allergies.



Should I be concerned that I might develop a latex allergy?


Health care workers who wear latex gloves all the time have more to be concerned about than you do. You could develop a latex sensitivity to the gloves used for a procedure. This is different from latex allergy. With a latex sensitivity, you’d develop a swelling or a rash in the area where the gloves touched you. This would be an irritant contact dermatitis. A true allergic reaction is more serious, much less common, and would cause symptoms including shortness of breath, wheezing, full body rash, and swelling.

by Bernadette, CDA - December 2, 2009

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Patient Testamonials


Dear Dr. Dilger:


It all started with my initial phone call to Dr. Dilger's office. I felt so comfortable from the start and after I came in for my first visit it's been all about what I want and what Dr. Dilger and his staff recommends for me. All around, it's been the best dental experience I've ever had.


Al P.




Going to the dentist used to be a nightmare experience for me. That's all changed when I came to Dr. Dilger. Dr. Dilger's office staff are so warm and welcoming. Visiting them is like going home. Dr. Dilger's calm and caring manner erased all my dental anxiety and for the first time in my life I found myself relaxed in a dental chair. Dr. Dilger and his staff really took the time to get to know me and my concerns. They talked with me about my fears and helped me address my anxiety. Now I visit the dentist and I'm not afraid. I can not express the difference Dr. Dilger has made in my dental life! Thanks so much Dr. D.


Molly F.




I love my new smile.  It was so easy too.  Nearly pain free.  I am considering my lower teeth at a later date.


Debbie E.