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Why are denture adhesives that contain zinc bad?

While zinc is a mineral essential to human life, it is also a heavy metal, much like lead, mercury and arsenic. Because of this, it is poisonous to humans when ingested in dosages above the Recommended Daily Allowance* (for adults) of 8 to 11 milligrams. Zinc becomes even more dangerous when it is ingested without a corresponding dose of copper (roughly 1.5 to 3 milligrams per day for adults), as it can cause copper deficiency (copper is also required for proper human functioning). For untold years, many manufacturers of denture adhesives have made their products with zinc as an ingredient, but without including a balancing amount of copper, or providing any sort of warning label on the package. As a result, many people have suffered from the symptoms of both zinc poisoning and copper deficiency, without ever realizing the source of their ailments.

What are the symptoms of zinc poisoning?

Zinc toxicity, also known as hyperzincemia, can occur in two ways; acute, meaning from a sudden ingestion of too much zinc, and chronic, which results from longer-term ingestion of smaller amounts. Denture wearers tend to suffer from the chronic form of zinc poisoning, which has the following symptoms:

  • reduced levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDLs, or “good” cholesterol)
  • anemia
  • reduced immunity
  • kidney damage
  • copper deficiency
  • neuropathy

This is not an all-inclusive list.

What are the symptoms of copper deficiency?

Copper deficiency, also known as hypocupremia, are usually interlinked with an overdose of zinc, especially on a chronic basis. The symptoms of chronic copper deficiency include

  • anemia
  • neutropenia (lack of neutrophils, a specific type of white blood cell)
  • leukopenia (generalized lack of white blood cells)
  • reduced immunity

Again, this is not an all-inclusive list. In addition, scientists and doctors are still doing research to determine all of the possible effects of hyperzincemia and hypocupremia in longtime denture wearers.

Why has the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) not required manufacturers to label these products if they are dangerous?

Good question. Part of the reason is clearly that the linkages between zinc levels in denture adhesives and the various side effects they cause are only recently being discovered. Previously, many people (my own mother included) suffered from these symptoms without realizing their cause. More specifically, however, it is due to the fact that none of the components in denture adhesives, including zinc, are regulated substances. All ingredients have the FDA’s “GRAS” or Generally Recognized as Safe designation.

*Recommended Daily Allowance figures and most other facts used here may be found at the National Institutes of Health. Supplemental information found at and Northwestern University.