DentalCare Logo

Infection Control-Related Administrative Policies and Work Restrictions

Course Number: 473

Preventive Strategies for the Oral Healthcare Settings

The amount of latex exposure to produce sensitization or signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction is unknown. However, reductions in exposure to latex products have been reported to be associated with decreased sensitization and associated signs and symptoms.15,17,27,34,35 Allergic reactions to latex products in the healthcare setting can be minimized or prevented by following the recommendations of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Table 1).36

Table 1. Strategies for the Prevention of Adverse Reactions to Latex Products.36

  • General strategies
    • Whenever possible, use non-latex gloves and other non-latex products
    • If latex gloves are preferred, use reduced protein, powder-free gloves
    • Do not use oil-based hand creams or lotions unless they have been shown to reduce latex-related problems
    • After removing latex gloves, perform adequate hand hygiene
    • Use good housekeeping practices to minimize latex-contaminated dust in the work place
      • Identify areas contaminated with latex for frequent cleaning
      • Change ventilation filters frequently in latex-contaminated areas
  • Strategies for OHCP suspected of latex allergy
    • Avoid direct contact with latex gloves and other latex products until evaluated by a physician
  • Strategies for OHCP with allergic contact dermatitis
    • A trial of reduced-protein, powder-free, additive-free, or latex-free gloves may resolve dermatitis
  • Strategies for OHCP with evidence of immediate hypersensitivity to latex
    • Avoid all contact with latex gloves and other latex products
    • Avoid areas where latex aeroallergens may be present
    • Follow physicians recommendations for dealing with allergic reactions
  • Strategies for the prevention of adverse reactions to latex products in patients
    • Identify patients who may be allergic to or are at high risk for allergy to latex
    • Patients allergic to latex must be treated in a latex-free environment
      • Latex free treatment room
        • Patients should be scheduled for first appointment of the day
        • Latex-free gloves and other latex-free devices
        • Latex-free procedure tray
        • Latex-free emergency kit
  • Periodically review and update preventive strategies

Some of the common products used in dentistry that contain latex and a list of alternative products is presented in Table 2. Practitioners should routinely check with their suppliers to stay current on the availability of latex-free substitutes. The cost of using non-latex gloves and other latex-free alternatives in healthcare settings has been analyzed. It was determined that maintaining a latex-free environment is less expensive when compared to potential disability and liability costs associated with exposure to latex products.37,38

Table 2. Dental Products that Frequently Contain Latex and Alternatives.

Latex ProductAlternatives
GlovesVinyl, nitrile, neoprene, polymer gloves
Bite blocksSilicone bite blocks
Polishing cupsNon-latex polishing cups
Dental damsNon-latex dam
Orthodontic elasticsUse ligature wires
Adhesive tapeCloth, paper or silk tape
Anesthetic cartridgesLatex-free cartridges
Bite wing tabsPaper loops
Impression materials
(check MSDS)
Latex-free alginate
MasksNon-latex cone-shaped or tie-on
Gutta perchaNo good alternative; ensure gutta percha does not protrude through apex