Thousands could still be at risk for denture paste poisoning

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on October 14, 2010 at 10:12 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 18 at 1:41 AM

IRVING — Marsha Hill gets strength from the Bible.

When it comes to dentures, for years the strength to hold them in place has come from Fixodent.

"I have to use it multiple times a day in order to make them fit," Hill said. "If I don't, they come out."

About six years ago, Hill's legs started tingling and going numb.

"There was a time when I couldn't even allow my youngest daughter to sit on my lap when she was little, because it hurt too bad for there to be any pressure on my legs," Hill recalled. "That's horrible."

Doctors diagnosed the 41-year-old with a nerve condition called neuropathy, but couldn't determine the cause. She had no other medical conditions that would cause the disorder.

Hill herself made the connection after seeing a News 8 report, linking zinc — an ingredient in some denture adhesives — with neuropathy.

"It was just unbelievable," Hill said. "The stories had the same signs and symptoms that I have myself. And I'm like, that's gotta be what it is. There's no other reason."

Tests confirmed elevated zinc levels. Hill is convinced the denture paste she has relied on to keep her lower dental plates in place for years has poisoned her.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans use denture pastes and creams to help keep their false teeth in place. Dental experts say properly fitting dentures do not need adhesives.

Those who use adhesives several times a day often have poorly-fitting dentures.

GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of Super Poligrip, acknowledged earlier this year that zinc was causing problems for some denture adhesive users. Company officials believe users are applying too much product and swallowing the excess.

The number of complaints and lawsuits promted GSK to reformulate Super Poligrip "zinc-free."

GSK officials have also told shareholders that they have agreed to settle the "vast majority of cases" involving "liability" for zinc poisoning.

In a statement, Andy Alonso, an attorney with the Parker Waichman Alonso firm in New York — which represents dozens of denture paste poisoning clients — says "GSK's decision stands in stark contrast to the actions of its main competitor, the manufacturer of Fixodent, Procter and Gamble," which "continues to ignore the mounting evidence that the zinc in denture adhesives is causing catastrophic injuries."

News 8 contacted Procter & Gamble for comment. They have not responded to phone calls or e-mail messages, but Fixodent's label has recently been updated to show zinc as an ingredient.

The FDA still does not require denture adhesive makers to list ingredients, because dental adhesives are considered "medical devices," not products which can be absorbed.

The Fixodent label also warns users that "prolonged zinc intake may be linked to adverse health affects."

The warning comes too late for Marsha Hill, who says she may never get her health back because of the toxic effects of too much zinc.

"I can't get out of bed, I can't take care of my kids," she said about the pain and depression neuropathy has caused. "I can't get a job. Yea, yea it's definitely had an impact on my life."

Hill hopes the Bible she reads daily gives her strength to fight Procter and Gamble, and convince them to reformulate their denture paste without zinc.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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