By Dr. Perry Ekstrand
I have been approached lately by a few patients asking me about titanium allergies. For those of you who don’t know, titanium is used in implant treatment to restore missing teeth. In medicine it is used for hips, knees and shoulders among other things. In some literature the incidence of allergies is claimed to be below 1%. Now, that does not really help you if you are the one. In other articles they suggest 2-4% and I have heard larger numbers as well. There is a discussion in the medical community if allergy tests should be routinely done before titanium implant placement.
The excerpt below is taken from the web site www.melisa.com. MELISA is a blood test that can be taken to check for different metal allergies including titanium and mercury. I think this website will shed some light on the subject and answer some of your questions.
“In the last couple of years, the question if titanium allergy really exists has been raised in scientific literature.
From a clinical point of view, the frequency of titanium allergy seems to be very rare. However, many patients report worsening of health after placement of titanium implants. The reactions are not necessarily local, but appear in other parts of the body. One of the reasons why the existence of titanium allergy has been debated might be the that the golden standard for metal allergy testing, patch testing, has not been properly developed for titanium. The patch test is a skin test, where salts of the metals tested are placed on the skin of the back under occlusion. 24-72 hours later a dermatologist evaluates the reaction and the presence of a rash is taken as evidence of a positive reaction. Unfortunately, titanium dioxide, a salt of titanium used for patch testing, does not penetrate the skin under the conditions of patch test. This is one of the reasons why patch test in its current form often gives false negative results in patients with titanium-induced inflammation in the body.
The latest available research from Europe and Japan shows that between 2-4% of all patients with titanium implants develop an allergic reaction to either titanium or to one or more of the metals used in the titanium alloy.
The symptoms most often observed after implantation with titanium-containing implants are varied, so they will be different in different patients. These symptoms are akin as those described after the exposure to other allergens, like nickel or mercury, in sensitized individuals. The result is multiple non-specific symptoms such as profound fatigue, pain, cognitive dysfunction, headache, sleep problems etc.”
If you have titanium implants and you are experiencing any of these symptoms, don’t panic, as there can be other causes. If you have evaluated almost everything else, or perhaps you are considering the journey into having implant treatment maybe it would be wise to ask your physician or dentist to order the Melisa study and evaluate your sensitivity.
There are alternatives to titanium for dental implants on the market which are more expensive, but are metal free and could be a better match if you discover an allergy.
You know if I could finish on a personal note … its not just titanium …..we are literally bombarded by thousands of chemicals & metals in our homes and offices and outdoor environments that are being used to supposedly “enhance“ our lives. A “safe level” of any substance is not safe if you are allergic to it. For example if you are allergic to peanuts it might just take a fraction of one nut to set it off. If you are prone to asthma or allergies, maybe the chemicals you are using to disinfect your surroundings are setting off an allergic reaction causing your symptoms. I for one took the bleach and other chemicals out of our home using toxic free products made in America. I have personally become much more cautious when it comes to choosing cleaners, personal care products, dental care products and processed food products.
Any way you look at it I always say, do your homework on anything you introduce into your body. “I always like to wear a belt and suspenders to be sure my pants don’t fall down :)… “
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