When it comes to biological dentistry, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for any procedure, no matter how minor. And whatever the procedure, biocompatibility is key – perhaps more than ever now that dental allergies appear to be on the rise.
“According to the [World Health Organization],” notes a recent study in the Swiss Dental Journal,
the number of allergy sufferers rose from 3% to 30% between 1960 and 1995. In the 2013 study on Adult Health in Germany (DEGS1), nearly 20% of respondents reported an allergic disease during the last twelve months. The most common allergic diseases were hayfever (14.8%), bronchial asthma (8.6%) and contact dermatitis (8.1%) (Langen et al. 2013). Allergic contact dermatitis has thus reached an alarming frequency similar to that of diabetes mellitus (Brasch et al. 2014). The introduction of new materials into dentistry also increased the likelihood of an allergic intolerance reaction as a result of dental treatment (Stoll 2007).
This raises the question, of course, of which materials seem to be causing the most trouble for patients. Since there hasn’t been a ton of research done on this, the German research team decided to find out.
Unsurprisingly, the top materials triggering reactions were metals, with nickel and cobalt coming in at #1 and 2. It might seem like mercury amalgam should top the list, but this study looked only at contact allergies, not the effects of materials on overall systemic health.
Nickel is extraordinarily toxic. It has been linked to oxidative damage, impaired liver and kidney function, and reproductive problems, among other health issues. A good number of common dental devices contain the stuff, including stainless steel crowns, metal orthodontic brackets, and metal retainers. Trace amounts have also been found in titanium implants.
But allergic reactions aren’t limited to metal. Allergies to other dental materials and product ingredients may rank lower on the list, but reactions can – and do – happen. Other reactions experienced by patients included allergies to latex, local anesthetics, toothpastes, ceramics, and polyamides (nylon).
This study reminds that each patient is different, with an individual history of sensitivities, environmental exposures, and health issues. This is why biocompatibility matters so much – especially when it comes to materials being placed in and on the teeth or other living tissues. For people with a history of sensitivities, placing any material without proper testing for biocompatibility first is a bit like playing roulette in Vegas.
When it comes to your health, we don’t want to take chances. The tooth-body connection demands it.