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Class Action Lawsuit Takes Aim at Fixodent Denture Cream

Denture cream is a product that thousands of Americans rely on every day. It is likely the most preferred form of denture adhesive, and can be a strong catalyst in ensuring a more normal diet and lifestyle for denture wearers. But, as a substance that when used as directed is applied in direct contact to the gum tissue, denture cream can create a unique risk when it contains potentially toxic ingredients.

Lawyers involved in a new class action lawsuit allege that the manufacturers of a particular brand of denture cream-Fixodent-exposed their clients to just such a risk by producing denture cream containing zinc. High exposure levels to this element can result in a serious condition known as zinc poising. Now, lawyers are arguing that the zinc contained in their clients’ Fixodent denture cream has led to severe medical consequences.

The Details

Some 34 million Americans are denture wearers. For most of them, dentures are a handy replacement for missing teeth. However, in addition to the potential for being lost or swallowed, dentures that adhere poorly to the gum tissue or slip when used can cause a host of health problems. That is where denture adhesives come in. Denture adhesives help secure dentures in place, ensuring a more comfortable fit and better functionality. They come in different forms, including paste or cream, powder, or a thin, wafer-like liner. Cream comes in a variety of strengths and flavors, and its versatility make denture cream a very popular option.

Fairly recently, members of the medical community began to notice a puzzling trend: a small, but growing number of denture users were beginning to show signs of imbalance and limb weakness. Some of them even had trouble walking and were forced to turn to wheelchairs.

In 2006, a meticulous study was completed with the results eventually published in 2008 in the Journal of Neurology. The doctors who authored the study surmised that the patients were likely suffering from a condition caused by long-term exposure to high doses of zinc. An excessive build-up of zinc in the body lowers copper levels, which leads to negative effects on the spinal cord and potential permanent neurological damage. And the common thread among the patients involved in the study? They were all using heavy amounts of denture cream containing zinc.

The study’s authors cautioned that more research is needed, and that zinc poising is likely a risk only for those using very large quantities of zinc-contained denture cream (the patients in the study were all using two or more tubes per week, whereas dental experts say that very little, if any, cream should be necessary for dentures that have an accurate fit).

Nevertheless, several lawsuits against denture cream manufacturers have sprung up across the country.

The latest is a class action lawsuit against Procter & Gamble, the company behind the popular denture cream Fixodent. For years, Fixodent has been produced using zinc as an odor-reducing ingredient that helps strengthen the adhesive bond. In an interview with Chris Cuomo of ABC News, Anne Coffman and Mark Jacoby (two long-time Fixodent users involved in the class action) reported deteriorating neurological function that their doctors attributed to zinc poisoning. Both Coffman and Jacoby are now confined to wheelchairs. The lawsuit seeks to hold Procter & Gamble responsible for the debilitating effects of zinc poisoning on users of Fixodent, and for failing to properly warn consumers of the risk.

Looking Ahead

For their part, Proctor & Gamble claims that Fixodent is safe when used as directed, although they now include a warning label on product packaging to caution against excessive use.

Zinc is actually a necessary nutrient when consumed in the proper amounts, and the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) admits that there is no proof that the zinc found in some denture creams like Fixodent is harmful when the products are used in moderation. Still, the FDA has recommended denture cream makers who use zinc consider safer substitutes, and some manufacturers have already taken this advice (Glaxo Smith Kline, the makers of Super Poligrip denture cream, have begun to offer zinc-free versions of their products).

The results of the Fixodent class action lawsuit remain to be seen, and it is certainly possible that more denture cream litigation will spring up in the future.

If you have been using a zinc-containing denture cream and feeling tingling, weakness, or any other neurological effects, consult your doctor immediately, and follow up with an experienced product liability attorney to explore you legal options.