Corn Allergy Safety At the Dentist

I just got back from my first corn-free dental cleaning, and no reactions! My last dental cleaning was a bit over 6 months ago, and two weeks after that visit, I had a Tom’s of Maine toothpaste that contained corn-derived sorbitol send me to the hospital. As you can imagine, I pushed back my upcoming appointments for fillings so that I could figure out how to get them without landing in the hospital. Fortunately the office manager at my Seattle-area dentist is just a wonderful human being, and was able to help me navigate this successfully. Our process was convoluted, but we eventually got to the right place for my specific needs. However, if I had to do this all over again, this is what I would have her do:

  1.  Get a list of all products that could be used during a dental cleaning, filling, or root canal. This includes gloves, cotton or gauze, paper bibs, and other “incidental” products, as well as products that are also directly used in your mouth, on your lips, or injected.
  2.  Get the package insert/MSDS for each. Make photocopies and just hand me the sheaf of them to go over.
  3.  Study up each of the products on my own, using google/the Corn Allergens list, and questions to the Facebook Corn Allergy and Intolerance group or the Delphi Avoiding Corn Forums to determine what should be safe.
  4.  Return with a list of approved items to use. And a gift to show my appreciation.
  5. Show up on the day of my appointment with an instruction sheet to remind them of what should and shouldn’t be used, and what to do if a reaction occurs.

Following is a list of the possible places to check for corn at the dentist. This list is written with the most sensitive in mind, including those who react to water treatment chemicals, so not all may apply to you:

  • The “bib” put around your neck could be dusted in corn starch. Bring your own cloth towel.
  • Water for rinsing or swishing. Water could be filtered through a corny filter or include corny softener salts. Additionally an additive is sometimes used to help plaque rinse away better, which could be corny. Bring your own safe water and rinse and swish with that.
  • Sonic cleaning devices which spray continuous water. Find out where the water comes from and if you are in doubt, ask for the “old school” polish and scraping tools to be used.
  • Chapstick or vaseline on  used during a procedure to keep lips from cracking. Bring your own safe.
  • Mouthwash. Skip or bring your own.
  • Dentifrice/tooth polish. Skip or bring your own. I use bentonite clay from living clay co for tooth polish.
  • Sanitizer used on tools will be corn derived. Wash and rinse them in safe soap and water. This includes the cup that holds the dentifrice during a cleaning- I kept having a mild reaction until we realized that and rinsed the prophy cup.
  • Floss- the wax can be corny. Bring your own.
  • Cups/containers for water and other supplies, including the cup that tooth polish is kept in. Bring your own containers or ask that the containers they use be rinsed first.
  • Gloves- can be dusted with corn starch. Make sure they use unpowdered.
  • Numbing injections- inactive ingredients can contain corn, usually dextrose. Check inactive ingredients.
  • Filling adhesive.
  • Dissolvable sutures are corny. Use the non-dissolvable and have them rinsed before use.
  • Xrays: Film or covering over the receiver if digital. If you tolerate any plastic bags such as ziploc brand, bring those along to cover anything being placed inside your mouth if possible.
  • Intravenous solution: Lactated ringers and dextrse are corny. Request saline only.
  • Topical numbing agents: Skip them entirely, they are pretty much all corny.

Numbing Injections

Carbocaine is the “standard” that most corn allergy folks have used, but there are other possibly safe injections. Septocaine and Zorcaine have been used by many but may cause issues for those with sulfa allergies. Preservative free lidocaine, both with and without epinephrine, has been used safely as well. In all cases, check the package insert and compare the ingredients against the corn allergens list before using.


Here are my instructions for a dental cleaning. You will need to personalize to yourself, especially the second half, but it’s a good place to start. 

Here is the last instruction sheet I used for a filling.

Things that could be problematic but are notably NOT covered in my instructions: airborne contact with perfumes, fabric softeners, etc, and the bite contact sheet they use after a filling to see if your teeth are coming together right. I did not check the MSDS on that sheet, just let them use it.

Instructions for a Dental Filling

This is what I brought in to my dentist and it is tailored for my needs/level of sensitivity. You will need to modify it, but it’s a good place to start. 

Allergy Info for ______________

 

Products to use/not use:

– Please use only powder-free gloves.

– No topical anesthetic please, it contains a corn derivative.

– I need to provide my own cup and water for rinsing. 

– I have brought my own unwaxed floss and toothpaste. Please only use those.

– Please, no mouthwash/mouth rinse, only water!

– Please don’t apply anything to my lips using q-tips. I have my own “safe” lip balm that I can apply myself, no q-tip,  if needed.

– Injected anesthetic: Please use only Carbocaine.

Additional Information

– I have reacted before to highly processed corn derivatives such as sorbitol and citric acid, as well as to plastic and waxed paper cups. My first point of reaction is always my mouth and throat: tongue swelling, difficulty swallowing, sometimes lip swelling. In extreme cases I will have an asthma attack.  Since my mouth will be numbed, I may need your help to watch out for swelling if we’ve missed anything about the ingredients or products used. (Beth has been very thorough, I hope we will be fine.)

 

– I have taken 25mg of Benadryl to head off any possible reactions. I will likely be a bit sleepy but not completely out of commision.  My boyfriend will pick me up when the appointment is over.


If there is a swelling reaction, I have an additional 25mg benadryl pill that I can take- prefer not to take it though, as it *will* put me to sleep. If my airway  begins close off, I will need to use my epi-pen and then go to the emergency room.

Dental Cleaning Instructions

This is what I brought in to my dentist and it is tailored for my needs/level of sensitivity. You will need to modify it, but it’s a good place to start. 

Dental Cleaning Instructions for ________________

Products Okay To Use:

  • powder-free nitrile gloves

  • white cosmetic (kaolin) clay (provided by patient)

  • cup for rinsing provided by patient

  • Desert Essence Tea Tree Dental Tape

Avoid:

  • No paper/disposable cups.

  • No q-tips

  • No mouth rinses/mouth wash.

  • When I rinse, I need to use my own water from home. 
  • Topical anesthetics, disinfectants, or any other products in the mouth or on lips that were not discussed ahead of time.

X rays: I react to the plastic sheath you use for the digital receiver. I need to use my own sandwich bags for this.

Safety

-My first point of reaction is always my mouth:  tongue swelling, difficulty swallowing, sometimes lip swelling. In extreme cases I will have an asthma attack.  I may need your help to watch out for swelling if we’ve missed anything about the ingredients or products used.

 

– If there is a swelling reaction, I have a benadryl pill that I can take.

 

– If my airway  begins close off, I will need to use my epi-pen and then go to the emergency room.