By Michael G. Rehme, DDS, NMD, CCN
What does your earlobe have to do with your dental health?
Before I was introduced to holistic, biological dentistry, I never gave a second thought to the different metals that I used in my patients’ mouths. Whether it was gold or nickel or palladium or even mercury, it really didn’t matter as long as the material was strong, noncorrosive, wear-resistant, and esthetically pleasing.
The revelation came to me sometime in the year 2000 when I was listening to a patient complain about a crown that had been placed recently in her mouth. It wasn’t that the tooth hurt or that the bite was off. Her objection was that the gum tissue around her new crown was inflamed and irritated.
She also noted that she had four other crowns in her mouth that showed no signs or symptoms of inflammation whatsoever. So why was this crown causing her problems?
After doing some research on dental materials and receiving some helpful information from her previous dentist, it was determined that her new crown contained 76% nickel. And guess what? This patient had an allergy to nickel!
Her body was so sensitive to this metal that she eventually found out that rings, bracelets, necklaces, and even earrings containing nickel would cause allergic reactions such as itchiness and rashes to occur at the sight of contact.
Since then, we always ask our new patients if they have any known sensitivities or allergies to any metal products. We are also observant of any unexplained sensitivities that may occur after new dental materials are introduced into the oral cavity. If you ever notice any redness, inflammation, swelling, or pain on your skin or gum tissue when you come in contact with certain substances, you may have what is known as “contact dermatitis.”
This inflammatory response is seen quite frequently with people who like to wear costume jewelry. If you have problems with a skin rash, redness, swelling, itching, or burning in areas where you are wearing jewelry, you may have a nickel allergy.
Nickel is commonly used in jewelry, since it’s cheap and strong. However around 15% of the population are allergic to nickel. If you’ve recently had your ears or body pierced and are experiencing allergic symptoms, you may have become sensitized to the metal your jewelry contains.
Conventional dentistry also uses a lot of nickel-based products in their dental materials because it’s strong, noncorrosive, and much cheaper than gold. Sensitivity to nickel in the oral cavity not only can cause a local response of redness, inflammation, and swelling; systemically, this metal is a known carcinogen and a depressant.
Here, I like to use an analogy: From the Earlobe to the Mouth. Simply, if you can’t wear costume jewelry (nickel) on your earlobe, then why put it in your mouth? If you give me a handful of your earrings to which you are sensitive and we melt them all down and make a crown out of the same material, wouldn’t you also be sensitive to it in your mouth?
Could you be one of the 15% that are sensitive to nickel? Why take a chance? Be proactive and take charge of your health. To find out if you have an allergy to nickel or any other metals, metal sensitivity tests can provide this information for you. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your dentist what type of materials are being used in your crowns, bridges, and even removable metal cast partials.
You have a right to know. It will also give you peace of mind knowing you’re trying to protect yourself from any potential hazards that may compromise your optimal health and well-being.
Edited from original