A recent study by researchers at the University of Maryland is the latest addition to a growing body of research that links a long series of cases of unexplained nerve damage to the use of denture creams like Fixodent and Poligrip. In many of those cases, the study reveals that nerve damage was the result of toxic levels of zinc contained in denture creams.
What is Zinc?
Zinc is a metal that is also an essential trace mineral in the human diet - much like iron. The body needs a very small amount of zinc in order to function properly. Most people get all the zinc they need from foods like red meat, nuts and grains.
When consumed in the appropriate quantities, zinc plays an important role in supporting the immune system. In addition, Zinc is involved in several bodily functions relating to energy and metabolism, and is necessary for the senses of taste and smell.
Although zinc is beneficial when consumed in the appropriate quantities, too much can cause severe illness or even death. According to FDA guidelines, adults generally need only about 8-11 milligrams of zinc per day. Researchers at the University of Maryland discovered that some individuals suffering from denture cream poisoning had been exposed to as much as 200 times that amount on a regular basis.
Effects of Zinc Poisoning
Zinc overdose can wreak havoc on the body's nervous system, causing severe disability or even death. At toxic levels, zinc impairs the body's ability to absorb other essential minerals like iron and copper, resulting in potentially crippling deficiency of those nutrients. Zinc poisoning can lead to the degeneration of spinal cord, a devastating neurological condition sometimes referred to as human swayback disease.
Symptoms of the neurological damage commonly associated with zinc poisoning may include:
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- Weakness of the limbs
- Problems with balance
- Difficulty walking
- Spastic gait
Zinc poisoning also causes bone marrow suppression, which leads to low counts of red and white blood cells and platelets. This interferes with the body's ability to fight off disease and heal from wounds.
While some patients see their symptoms improve after they stop using products that contain zinc, the neurological damage caused by denture cream poisoning is often irreversible. Many victims of denture cream poisoning suffer the permanent loss of the ability to walk.
Zinc poisoning symptoms, while often very severe, may develop slowly over a period of months or years. Because of the gradual onset, some patients do not realize that their symptoms are related to their use of denture creams and may exacerbate the problem by continuing to use zinc-containing products.
Reduce the Risk of Denture Cream Poisoning
In February, the FDA issued a notice to denture cream manufacturers urging them take action to reduce the risk of denture cream zinc poisoning. While at least one company - GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturer of Poligrip - has reformulated and now produces a line of zinc-free denture creams, Fixodent and many other brands continue to use formulas that contain zinc. Until the May 2010 reformulation, Poligrip contained about 34 milligrams of zinc per gram of denture cream; Fixodent contains roughly half that amount.
For those who use denture creams or adhesives, the most important step toward preventing zinc poisoning is to avoid denture products that contain zinc.
Those who do use denture products containing zinc should take great care to use them only as directed. The risk of zinc poisoning increases when patients use large amounts of denture cream as a long-term solution to cope with ill-fitting dentures. It is far safer, and less expensive, to purchase better-fitting dentures instead.
If you or someone close to you experiences symptoms of zinc poisoning, it is very important to get medical help right away.
Legal Help for Victims of Denture Cream Zinc Poisoning
If you or someone close to you has suffered neurological harm that may be linked to the use of zinc-containing denture cream, you may be entitled to receive compensation for your damages. Texas toxic tort lawyers say it's vital to protect your rights.