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Going through two tubes a week of Poligrip? You might want to reconsider.

February 18, 2010 |  4:36 pm

Zinc Denture wearers tend to want their dentures to stay in place. As this is not a fleeting or a temporary need, they must use adhesives for the long term. Some of them likely and perhaps understandably use too much.

Don't, says GlaxoSmithKline. The problem is zinc, specifically the neurological problems that too much of the mineral can cause and the fact that some adhesives contain it.

In a consumer advisory issued today, the maker of Super Poligrip cautioned against "long-term excessive use of zinc-containing denture adhesives."

The company says its three zinc-containing Super Poligrip products (Original, Ultra Fresh and Extra Care) are "safe to use as directed." But, to err on the side of caution, it will begin offering zinc-free versions.

Here's more on the products in question and the ensuing change.

And to understand why all the fuss, here's a recent Times story on the perils of zinc. That story, an exploration of the mineral in its many forms, sheds some light on today's move by the company:

"Zinc raised other alarms last year, when researchers began to notice weakness, balance and memory issues and other neurological trouble in some patients. Sleuthing revealed the only common link: All of the patients used large amounts of denture cream enhanced with zinc.

"Denture cream is meant to be used in small amounts, says Jaya Trivedi, a neurologist at the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center in Dallas. But people with poorly fitting dentures may end up using much more of it to keep their dentures in place. Trivedi and colleagues published their analysis of four denture-wearing, zinc-overloaded patients in the journal Neurology in 2008.

"A tube of denture cream should last a month or more, Trivedi says. The patients in her study, however, had been using up to two tubes a week of Poligrip or Fixodent creams for many months or even years."

Here's the Neurology study's abstract.

And, as for the purpose for which zinc is most commonly used, there's this related story: But does zinc help colds? 

-- Tami Dennis

Photo: Zinc can be found in relatively high levels in various foods -- including the oysters and baked beans shown here -- and in some denture adhesives.

Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times