Zinc is common enough—it is even a dietary requirement. Humans should typically ingest between eight and eleven milligrams per day (often through red meat, nuts and grains). However, lawsuits alleging zinc toxicity of denture creams are showcasing how too much of a good thing can be harmful. A study in Neurology reports that some patients who used denture cream were exposed to at least 330 milligrams of zinc daily—far more than the maximum daily allowance of 40 milligrams. This and other studies form the basis for many of the existing denture cream lawsuits.
There are approximately eleven denture cream lawsuits filed against Glaxo Smith Kline and Proctor and Gamble for their denture cream products—Poligrip and Fixodent. The denture cream lawyers generally allege that the denture cream manufacturers failed to appropriately warn consumers about the risks of zinc toxicity. One defense is predictable—the plaintiffs did not use the product in accordance with the instructions. However, that defense lawyers’ common argument – blame the victim – ignores the fact that a large portion of the denture-wearing population (34 million Americans) have somewhat ill-fitting dentures. The only way to keep them in place is a generous application of denture cream. This is common knowledge. Those people were never warned of the dangers of using denture cream beyond the instructions. From a consumer standpoint, a product that goes in your mouth must be safe to use. Who among us would think of a problem like zinc toxicity from denture cream?
So, here’s the science: zinc in denture cream is absorbed through the gums. High levels of zinc inhibit copper absorption, which can cause a copper deficiency and anemia (weakness). It can also reduce the function of the immune system. Among the more serious effects are paralysis and nerve damage. Symptoms can include numbness or tingling, and lack of balance. One plaintiff claiming injuries from denture cream, a man from east Texas, can barely walk, and only with support.
Though reducing zinc intake to normal levels can help, oftentimes the damage is not reversible, and there is no cure. Victims injured by denture cream may have extensive medical and other needs, which they cannot afford on their own. For example, they may need wheelchairs, transportation, and help working around the house or performing normal activities. Regardless, these are significant injuries that severely limit victims’ independence.
2013 Update: These case are mostly over. Some of them settled for millions of dollars.