Think about how much nickel you interact with over your lifetime. Watches, keys, jewelry, cell phones, toys… The list is endless. It’s no wonder, then, that nickel allergies are found to be very prevalent in the United States, affecting 30% of our population – and more women than men.
A recent study carried out aimed to analyze whether this allergy was directly linked to orthodontic treatment. After analyzing 30 patients, they found that even though nickel reactions are usually the more common reactions to orthodontic treatment, nickel reactions were low. However, nickel hypersensitivity was increased in patients with piercings, and it seems that having orthodontic treatment before getting a piercing created a protective effect. For example, if you had braces before you had your ears pierced, there would be a lower chance of you being allergic to nickel.
In my practice, we test for this using a patch test. I’ve found that after patients have orthopaedic replacement of joints, they come in with nickel allergies and they want to do allergy tests for metals and adhesives. The reason it may affect such patients more than those with braces is because getting braces exposes you to nickel in small doses over time, as opposed to having a big surgery where you are exposed to a chunk of nickel all at once. As a result, we actually see a lot of patients with nickel allergies trying to get braces or joint replacements.
In conclusion, while orthodontia has no significant effect on nickel sensitivity, it may have protective effects if it’s performed prior to piercing. Be aware of this as you consider the order in which you receive braces or piercings – it could affect your nickel hypersensitivity in the long run.