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Overuse of Denture Cream Can Cause Neurological Damage in Elderly

Posted May 22 2009 5:55pm

By CK Wilde for 3GenFamily Blog

“Does your Dad wear dentures?” the nurse asked.

“Yes, partials.” It seemed like an odd question at that moment as the hospital staff were preparing my father for a procedure.

“Is he wearing them now?” the nurse persisted.

“I . . . I don’t know,” I said slowly as I tried to peek in Dad’s mouth.

The nurse poked her fingers in Dad’s mouth and determined that no dentures were there. He was taken downstairs for the procedure.

Back in his regular hospital bed and awake after having the procedure, I asked my father about his dentures.

“Oh, I think I threw them away. They were bothering me.” Dad muttered.

I never did find his dentures, even after an exhausting clean out of his apartment. So, maybe he did toss them in the trash in a moment of extreme frustration.

Denture Cream Can Make You Sick

Approximately 34 million Americans wear dentures. Many frugal seniors don’t give up as easily as my father did on poor fitting dentures. They resort to denture adhesives to hold them in place.

And, a few seniors use too much each day. Some of them end up with neurological problems like loss of balance, weakness in the limbs, pain or tingling in the hands and feet from using too much. It may be misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis or other diseases.

A recent report on ABC News Good Morning America told the story of Ellen Isaacs whose neurologist diagnosed her loss of balance as the result of using denture cream.

Isaacs problems began with tingling in her toes that progressed over four years to total loss of balance.  She has used denture cream regularly for ten years, often leaving her dentures in overnight. She had no idea that it could hurt her!

The culprit in all of this is not some strange chemical but zinc, a mineral our bodies need. The zinc in the denture cream helps it adhere better.  But, too much zinc can deplete our bodies of copper. Both zinc and copper are needed in the right balance to protect the nervous system. Too much or too little of one or the other can cause problems.

Because the most commonly sold denture creams don’t list ingredients, researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center -Dallas tested several for excessive zinc as part of a study to explain why a small number of patients had abnormally high zinc and abnormally low copper levels in their blood. These patients were experiencing neurological problems that could not be explained.

The researchers concluded that these patients were exposed to about 330 mg  of zinc daily over a long period of time. The National Academy of Sciences has stated that the largest daily tolerable zinc intake is 40 mg.

There were four patients in this study.

One patient had weakness in the hands and poor balance, while another had weakness in her arms and legs that kept her in a wheelchair. She also experienced cognitive decline and urinary incontinence.

These patients had “mild neurologic improvement” after they stopped using denture cream and began taking copper supplements. Another patient took copper supplements but didn’t stop using denture cream. His copper levels improved, but his zinc levels remained too high and he showed no improvement in his neurological symptoms.

The fourth patient took copper supplements and stopped using denture cream. This patient showed improvement in copper and zinc levels, but no improvement in neurological symptoms.

The Moral of This Story Is NOT About Lawsuits

Ellen Isaacs attorney is suing the manufacturers of the denture cream claiming that it needs a warning label. While a better product label is always a good idea, this story is really about overusing an over-the-counter product and poor fitting dentures.

Dentures are supposed to be removed every evening, not slept in overnight. And, the denture cream needs to be used in very small dots – not in thick gobs that ooze out around the denture.

If your elderly parent squeezes through a tube of denture cream in a week, it is a sign that those dentures don’t fit properly.

Please schedule a visit with the dentist for your parent as soon as possible. It may be expensive to have the dentures relined or replaced. But it is far better than developing permanent neurological damage. More information about dentures is available on the American Dental Association website.

Denture Cream Without Zinc

You can also get your loved one to switch to a denture product that doesn’t contain zinc. Here is one brand to look for:

  • Secure Denture Bonding Cream
  • Secure Denture Adhesive Cushion Strips

(This was the only brand I could find that put its ingredient list online.)

Be aware that switching to another brand of denture cream is not a solution for ill-fitting dentures. But, if they fit well, denture adhesive can help them stay in place better to make eating and speaking more comfortable.

If you don’t know whether your parent wears dentures or uses dental adhesives, now is a good time to ask. You may just help your loved one avoid a serious problem.

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P.S. Secure Denture products are available at health food stores and online at iHerb.com and Amazon.com

Take $5 off your first order from iHerb.com. Use code CON570 at checkout.

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© 2009 CK Wilde. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free to link to this post but you must have prior written permission (please use the comments) to reproduce this post either whole or in part.

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