Q:  Hi Dr. Cruz-Davis, could you please explain the precautions taken at the dentist with a person who has an anaphylactic allergy to dairy, as well as over the counter dental products they should avoid? Thank you!

—Helen, Gainesville, FL

A:  Dear Helen,

While having a mild food allergy or sensitivity can be stressful, an anaphylactic allergy can be life-threatening. Thus, appropriate precautions need to be taken to avoid contact with the allergen - the substance that causes the allergic reaction.

An allergic reaction happens when a person comes into contact with an 'allergen' that will make certain cells in that person's body produce chemicals that can manifest as a mild a reaction, like itching, sneezing, and runny nose, to an acute reaction - anaphylaxis, where the person's airways tighten - which can be fatal.

In this case, you asked about a dairy allergy and how it relates to dental care. While the specific information on this topic is limited, from my research, Colgate, Crest, and Sensodyne products do not have ingredients containing milk or milk proteins. On the other hand, Recaldent, a product that helps remineralize the teeth, is derived from casein, a milk protein. As far as I know, in the U.S., Recaldent can only be found in Trident brand chewing gum and GC MI Paste, MI Paste Plus, and GC Tooth Mousse Plus, the latter three products which a dentist might prescribe to help fight cavities.

What's important to remember is that dairy is not just milk and cheese, but rather proteins that come in many forms with many names. Therefore, it is important to always read product ingredients, call the manufacturer if there are any questions, and to be an educated consumer. Avoid products / ingredients with the words whey, casein, the prefix 'lact-' (e.g. lactose, lactate), protein powders, and hydrolase. Also be cautious of artificial butter and cheese flavors as they might contain dairy, as well as candies like milk chocolate, nougat and caramel. And be sure to tell your health care providers about your allergy.

I hope this helps!

Dr. C-D

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