Susceptibility to allergens in the practice

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  Posted by: Dental Design      13th February 2024

Whilst we are not in peak allergy season, every dental professional will know that threats can be encountered daily in the dental practice. Some solutions used in the practice can be troublesome for susceptible patients or clinicians, but thankfully unfortunate outcomes can be avoided with an appropriate armamentarium. 

Allergies can impact oral health over time – potentially resulting in dry mouth or malocclusion from mouth breathing because of irritated airways[1] – but the greatest risks to a person’s health may be posed by the products used in everyday treatments.

Powerful reactions

When an at-risk patient interacts with an allergen, they can experience a variety of different effects. At their mildest, an individual may have a running nose or extensive sneezing, maybe even itchy skin or a raised rash.[2]

In the most unfortunate situations, patients in the dental practice could experience anaphylaxis. This is an extreme allergic reaction that may transpire as swelling of the tongue and throat, and difficulty breathing or swallowing, amongst other symptoms, and it is life-threatening.[3]

Harmful allergic responses in the dental practice are uncommon, but not implausible. Just this past summer, tabloid news outlets reported on allergic reactions to veneers that left a patient with ‘elephant skin’.[4] Historically, multiple cases have seen young people with dairy and milk product      allergies develop anaphylaxis after using toothpaste and mousses containing Recaldent.[5]

These are outliers from standard daily proceedings, but it’s important to know that such cases do exist. Clinicians should put in place provisions for those with known allergies, and be able to proceed appropriately if a patient suffers a reaction whilst under the dental team’s care.

On the front foot

Allergic reactions may take both patient and clinician by surprise. Neither party may be able to predict the effect that a singular ingredient will have, and if a patient has not displayed such symptoms before, a severe reaction could be a shock.

In mild cases, an antihistamine may be enough to treat a patient and alleviate any symptoms.i  When a reaction is more severe and poses an extreme threat to the patient’s health, then an alternative response could be needed.

The GDC states that dental professionals must follow the guidance on medical emergencies and training updates issued by the Resuscitation Council UK.[6] In their standards for primary dental care, they specify that dental professionals must be educated in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and provide other advanced life support skills if trained to do so.[7] This may include specific reactions to anaphylaxis. An ambulance must be called immediately, and the patient placed in a comfortable position to aid in the restoration of blood pressure or the relief of breathing problems. The administration of adrenaline is the first-line treatment in such cases and is allowed to be provided unprescribed by an “appropriate practitioner” (including dentists) when used from an emergency drug supply.[8] Adrenaline is part of the equipment that practices must ensure they have in case of emergency.[9]

Reactionary measures of this ilk can save lives, and by quickly identifying major problems, patients can receive the highest standard of care needed in any given situation. However, as always, prevention is better than cure.

Avoiding a turn for the worse

Within the dental practice, accurate record keeping will help to ensure that people at risk of certain medical emergencies are identified in advance of any proposed Consulting patients and their records can help dentists to select the appropriate treatment solutions and minimise the risk of a severe reaction occurring.

There are several potential dental-centric stimuli to trigger an allergic reaction. Antibiotics are the main cause of perioperative anaphylaxis in the UK with an incidence of 4.0 per 100,000 administrations, and amoxicillin, in particular, is most likely to be associated with such a response.iv

However, perhaps the most prominent allergen risk in the dental practice is, of course, latex. The natural rubber proteins found within latex have the potential to cause asthma, urticaria, and, although rare, anaphylaxis.[10] Allergies to this specific substance are more common among health professionals than the general population, potentially around 9.7% and 4.3% respectively,v which increases the need for appropriate measures to be in place for latex-free workflows.

This means providing suitable alternatives throughout the practice, to ensure completely latex-free workflows can be achieved. Practices must be able to demonstrate that they have carried out an assessment to judge which types of gloves they should provide. They should also have an effective glove use policy that takes into account individuals – including both clinicians and the general public – who may have a latex allergy.ix,

In any case, the practice should always be prepared for allergen needs. With Initial Medical, dental practices can stock up on a wide range of medical supplies including latex-free gloves. Our glove range is available in sizes extra-small to extra-large and can be bulk bought as 10 boxes of 100 for ultimate convenience, delivered to your door.

Although allergen risks are always likely to be present in the dental practice, with adequate training and preparation, potentially harmful stimuli can be negated from treatments.

To find out more, get in touch at 0808 304 7411 or visit the website today

Rebecca Waters, Category Manager, Initial Medical

Rebecca has worked in the Healthcare sector for the past 17years and was a Research Chemist with Bayer Cropscience prior to joining Rentokil Initial in 2003.  She keeps up to date on all developments within the clinical waste management industry and is an active member of the CIWM, SMDSA and BDIA.  

About Initial Medical

Initial Medical set the standard in healthcare and infectious waste management in the UK, providing a reliable, effective and fully compliant service built around customer needs and delivered by our highly trained local teams.  We are ISO 9001:2015 accredited, with technology fully integrated into our operations, providing full traceability of service delivery, electronic waste documentation and the best customer experience possible. We also offer innovative healthcare waste management services and infection control products, to help break the chain of transmission and prevent cross contamination.  

Initial Medical are a company with a ‘World Class’ Health and Safety record, and ISO 45001:2018 accreditation. We are also accredited to ISO 14001:2015 environmental standards, and pride ourselves on our sustainable approach with a focus on delivering eco-friendly products and operational solutions. 

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[1] Wee, J. H., Park, M. W., Min, C., Park, I. S., Park, B., & Choi, H. G. (2020). Poor oral health is associated with asthma, allergic rhinitis, and atopic dermatitis in Korean adolescents: A cross-sectional study. Medicine, 99(31).

[2] NHS, (2022). Allergies. (Online) Available at: [Accessed November 2023]

[3] NHS, (2023) Anaphylaxis. (Online) Available at: [Accessed November 2023]

[4] Van De Peer, H., Pochin, C., (2023) EXCLUSIVE: Allergic reaction to veneers leaves woman covered in agonising ‘elephant skin’. The Mirror. (Online) Available at: [Accessed November 2023]

[5] Jevon, P., & Shamsi, S. (2020). Management of anaphylaxis in the dental practice: an update. British Dental Journal, 229(11), 721-728.

[6] General Dental Council, (N.D.). Medical Emergencies. (Online) Available at: [Accessed November 2023]

[7] Resuscitation Council UK, (2020). Quality Standards: Primary dental care. (Online) Available at: [Accessed November 2023]

[8] Resuscitation Council UK, (2021). Emergency treatment of anaphylactic reactions: Guidelines for healthcare providers. (Online) Available at: [Accessed November 2023]

[9] Care Quality Commission, (2023). Dental Mythbuster 4: Drugs and equipment for a medical emergency.

[10] Helath and Safety Executive, (N.D.). Selecting Latex Gloves. (Online) Available at:[Accessed November 2023]

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