CONTACT: C. LINDON LARSON
283 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-9569; fax (319) 335-8034
UI dental clinic responds to problem of latex allergy
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- For people allergic to latex -- the natural rubber
used in gloves and many other products -- a trip to the dentist can be
uncomfortable and even dangerous. The very devices meant to protect health
care professionals and patients can cause hives, watery eyes and potentially
serious breathing problems.
Dr. Natalie Henke, director of the University of Iowa College of Dentistry
Oakdale Dental Clinic, says awareness of latex allergy is growing, especially
among health care professionals. Although only about 1 percent of the general
population is allergic to latex, between 5 and 17 percent of health care
workers develop the problem, which can be caused by long-term exposure
to latex products.
"Statistics show that dentistry is a profession with one of the
highest rates of latex sensitivity," Henke says. Rates are also high
among people who have undergone multiple surgeries, food service workers
and rubber industry workers.
The problem of latex allergy has received greater attention since dentists
and other health care professionals began regular use of latex gloves as
a safety measure. More patients and practitioners began to develop latex
sensitivity, possibly due in part to inferior products that contained high
levels of allergy-causing substances.
For patients very sensitive to latex, simply avoiding direct contact
with latex products may not be enough to avoid reactions. The powdered
gloves used in many health care settings can produce airborne allergens
when latex proteins mingle with glove powder.
The UI College of Dentistry offers an option for people with latex allergies.
Its Oakdale Dental Clinic provides general dental care in a latex-safe
environment. The clinic is located on the Oakdale Research Campus northwest
of Iowa City.
Staff at the clinic use non-latex gloves, masks, orthodontic rubber
bands, syringes and other latex-free products. They can refer patients
who suspect they may have allergies to the UI Hospital and Clinics for
testing and are developing a patient questionnaire to trace latex allergy
symptoms. For more information, call the Oakdale Dental Clinic at (319)