Charge Up for Good Health

Are the latex gloves my dentist uses safe?

Are the latex gloves my dentist uses safe?

Yes, latex gloves are the preferred method to stop the spread of disease -- as long as you’re not allergic to latex, says Dr. Phillip Allison, a dentist in Dallas. Since the mid-1980s, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires that all oral-health professionals wear medical gloves (either latex or vinyl) to protect themselves and their patients from blood-borne diseases like HIV, AIDS and hepatitis.

Some people, however, are allergic to the proteins in the rubber used to make latex, the same way others can’t tolerate allergens like pollen. Allergic reactions to latex may include a runny nose, hives or shortness of breath. If you are allergic, tell the office staff when you make your appointment, and remind your dentist and hygienist the day of as well. Most dentists stock non-latex gloves made of nitrile, a synthetic rubber.

If you need a root canal or other major procedure, make sure to ask your dentist or endodontist if he plans to use rubber dams, which are often made of latex. Given advance notice, he can use a dam made with an alternate material that won’t trigger your allergies.

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