Allergic Sensitivity to Dental Materials

Allergic sensitivity causes inflammation.  If a patient is sensitive to a dental material, the inflammatory response will be most prevalent in the oral tissues, especially those tissues closest to the material, like the gingival tissue, or gums. 

It is very common for gum tissue around a dental restoration to be inflamed.  Dental educators teach their students that dental plaque and calculus (calcified plaque) are the primary cause of inflammation in the mouth. Therefore, during a dental exam or cleaning, a dentist or hygienist will often warn the patient to clean better around such an area.  But this inflammation will never resolve, no matter how effectively the area is cleaned, until the material causing the sensitivity is removed.

The dental materials that may cause sensitivity and the degree of sensitivity to those materials are unique to an individual.  But some commonly used materials are nearly universally capable of causing sensitivity.  The sensitivity may be immediate upon initial exposure or may develop later.

Many people show sensitivities to metals because of previous exposure.  For example, many women have developed a sensitivity to inexpensive earrings made with nickel and therefore have sensitivities to dental crowns made with nickel.

There are many metals used in dentistry that cause sensitivity including but not limited to:

  • Mercury used in silver fillings
  • Cadmium used in some denture materials 
  • Nickel used in crowns and partial dentures 
  • Beryllium used in crowns

 One Case Report

One interesting study concerning metal sensitivity involved the use of nickel in crowns.  Researchers from the University of Southern California dental school placed nickel crowns in the mouth of an individual who had a history of kidney disease.  The patient’s disease increased in severity as each successive dental crown was placed. This deterioration was verified by blood tests, urine tests and physical exams.  But the disease gradually disappeared following removal of the crowns.

Get Tested

While metals are a significant cause of sensitivity reactions in dentistry, they are not the only cause. Allergic sensitivity can be found in connection with any material. 

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