Is Denture Adhesive Deadly? The Truth That's Hard To Swallow


Denture adhesive, also known as dental adhesive and dental cream, is a powder or paste designed to hold dentures in place. It supports the natural suction effect that allows dentures to remain stable in the mouth and is useful for eating, running, singing, and even talking. Anytime that you feel your dentures slipping, you can use this substance to keep them where they belong. 

But what is denture adhesive made from, how does it work, is it safe to use, and what are the best brands on the market right now? 

What is Denture Adhesive?

Denture adhesive is often made from polymethyl vinyl ether-malevich anhydride (PVM-MA) copolymer and sodium carboxymethylcellulose (CMC). If that just sounds like a jumble of letters to you, then you’re not alone. They are resinous polymers that constitute the main ingredients and supply the adhesion and stability that make these products so useful. Denture adhesive can also contain petroleum byproducts like petrolatum, which helps with the consistency and hold, and other additives that provide color, volume, and consistency. 

Zinc may also be added to denture adhesive, although it’s not nearly as common as it once was. Zinc provides more of a hold and makes for a very effective product. However, as noted below, it has been linked to a host of toxicity problems and may be more trouble than it’s worth. 

How Does Dental Adhesive Work? 

Dental adhesive interacts with the moisture in saliva and helps to adhere the dentures to the gum. It holds them firmly in place without irritating the gums and can be replaced and removed without issues. It essentially works like a very mild glue, only it’s non-toxic, doesn’t hurt your gums, and relies on your saliva to create a firm seal. 

Do I Need Dental Adhesive? 

A high-quality set of dentures fitted by a capable dentist shouldn’t require denture adhesive. Dentures should be made to fit perfectly over your gums while your saliva creates suction and applies a natural seal. However, there are times when this may not be enough and times when even the best dentures need a little help from dental cream: 

  • The Dentures Are Low Quality: If your dentures aren’t very good, they probably won’t fit as well as they should. Such issues are rare, and if you feel that your dentures are a little loose, you should consult with your dentist and ask them to make the necessary changes. However, as dental tourism becomes more popular and people start using online services and at-home kits, loose-fitting dentures are still a big problem for thousands of new denture wearers. 
  • Your Mouth is an Unusual Shape: The beauty of dentures is that they are molded to fit and should, therefore, work for most mouth shapes. But that’s not always the case and if you have a very irregular mouth shape or a flat jaw, they may not fit very well, and you can turn to denture adhesive for help. 
  • Long-Time Denture Wearers: As you age, your mouth gradually changes shape. There are several reasons for this, but the main one is that your jaw begins to deteriorate when it no longer has real teeth to support. Your gums may also shrink, and because your dentures remain the same shape regardless, they will eventually feel a little looser. You should book an appointment with your dentist to discuss a realignment. It’s usually a quick and painless process and it’s essential if you’ve experienced significant changes in your mouth. 
  • You Suffer from Dry Mouth: Dentures and denture adhesives need saliva to work. If you suffer from dry mouth, you may not be producing enough moisture for the dentures to adhere. Dry mouth is more common in seniors, which also happens to be the group most likely to require dentures. The body becomes less efficient at staying hydrated and seniors are also more likely to suffer from ailments that cause dry mouth and take medications that list it as a side effect. 

Dental cream can be kept on standby for those times when you need a little more confidence. It’s often purchased by new denture wearers for this very reason. They worry that their teeth will fall out when they are eating, talking, or doing physical activity, and so they apply a little denture adhesive. It’s rarely necessary, but if it gives you the confidence that you need to live freely, there’s no harm in it. 

After a while, you will discover when you need a little extra support. Maybe that moment never arrives, and your dentures fit perfectly regardless of what you do. Maybe you discover that they are a little looser when you’re singing or that you feel more confident with denture adhesive when you’re at a restaurant.  

If you’re not sure whether dental cream is right for you or not, discuss it with your dentist.  

How to Use Dental Adhesive

Dental creams come with instructions that must be followed to the letter. Typically, you will need to place three small strips or pea-size dots on the inside of the denture, with one placed in the middle and one on either side. Once you push the denture up against your gums, the adhesive will spread out and create a firm hold. 

You should refrain from drinking very hot liquids while wearing dental adhesive as they may dissolve the substance, loosen the grip, and cause your dentures to fall out. It’s also worth noting that denture adhesive doesn’t give you free rein to do whatever you want. You still need to avoid really tough foods, sticky caramels, hard candies, seeds/nuts, nut butter, apples, and other problematic foods.

Denture adhesive will give you a little more confidence when you eat, but it won’t prevent chips or breaks and if the pressure is great, your dentures will still pop out.  

Zinc in Dental Adhesives

Zinc was a common ingredient in denture adhesive up until a decade ago. It helps the material to bond and creates a stronger and more effective hold. It was also deemed to be very safe, and so it seemed like the perfect ingredient. Concerns were raised when it was discovered that it could cause zinc toxicity with excessive use and in vulnerable users. 

The problem is that the body needs a balance of copper and zinc. If there is too much zinc, there won’t be enough copper, and the user may notice the symptoms of copper deficiency, including fatigue, muscle soreness, sickness, weakness, and a loss of coordination. It is reversible if it is diagnosed and treated, but in extreme cases, it could lead to severe health problems. 

Many denture adhesive formulations now omit zinc, but its use is still permitted, it’s still considered useful, and, as a result, you will still encounter zinc on the ingredients list of many dental creams. 

It stresses the importance of following the directions and not using more than the amount stated on the packaging. If you notice any of the aforementioned symptoms or are worried about sensitivity, look for a zinc-free denture adhesive. Take a look at the list near the bottom of this guide for more information. 

FAQs about Denture Adhesive 

Dental creams should come with complete instructions concerning the amount you need to use, where you should place it, and what you should do if there is an issue. But there are a few questions that the packaging may not address, including: 

How Do I Remove my Dentures After Using Denture Adhesive? 

You may be able to remove the dentures through force alone, but it’s important not to push or pull too hard. Just place your fingers at the sides of the denture, apply a little pressure, and gently push them away from the gums. If that doesn’t work, you can try swishing some warm water around your mouth. It should dissolve the adhesive and allow you to remove your dentures with ease. 

You can also try biting into an apple. Raw apples are one of the worst things that denture wearers can eat as they apply force to the front of the dentures and can easily pull them free. But when that is your goal, apples are your friend! 

It’s important not to panic when you are unable to remove your dentures. It happens to all denture wearers at one time or another and is caused by everything from excessive use of adhesive to suction. Just keep swishing that warm water around and it will get the job done eventually. 

Will It Harm My Dentures?

There is no harm in using denture adhesive, providing you use it as directed and always clean it from your dentures afterward.  

Your dentures are much more fragile than real teeth and need to be handled with care if you want to keep using them for many years to come, so if you’re using denture adhesive, remember to follow these steps: 

  1. Don’t use more adhesive than required, even if you feel like your dentures are a little looser than they should be. If they still don’t fit after when you use adhesive, it’s time to see your dentist. 
  1. Don’t treat adhesive as a free pass to eat what you want. Make a conscious effort to avoid challenging food. 
  1. At the end of the day, remove your dentures, rinse them, and clean them with a soft-bristled toothbrush, making sure you remove all remnants of the adhesive. 
  1. Run the brush over the denture teeth to loosen trapped food particles. 
  1. Place your dentures in a cup/bath of warm water and add a denture-cleaning tablet. Leave it to soak all night to remove bacteria. 

The XODENT Kit contains everything that you need to clean your dentures, with or without adhesive. It includes two strainers and denture baths; 2 soft-bristled toothbrushes, and a 30-day supply of denture tablets. You can keep all of the pieces for yourself, using the leftovers as spares or a travel kit, or you can give one to your partner and keep the other one. 

How Do I Know If I’m Using Too Much? 

If the denture adhesive oozes out from the underside of your dentures, you’re probably using too much.  

Dental cream, just like toothpaste, is one of those things that everyone seems to use too much of, because it never feels like the directed amount is enough. After all, how much adhesion can three little spots of cream possibly provide? But, just like the pea-sized dab of toothpaste that turns into a thick and frothy foam in your mouth, that denture adhesive will expand once it interacts with your saliva. 

How Long will a Tube of Dental Adhesive Last? 

It really depends on how much you are using, how big the tube is, and whether you’re using it on both upper and lower dentures or just one. A tube of 2.4 ounces that is used as directed on a full set of dentures should last for around 2 months.  

How Do I Get it Out of My Mouth?

It’s good practice to brush your gums with a soft-bristled toothbrush, such as the one provided in all XODENT kits. It kills bacteria and encourages blood flow, which helps to prevent gum disease and keeps your mouth healthy. If you use adhesive, the brush will also capture some stray chunks of dental cream, as well.

You should also rinse with water or a non-alcohol mouthwash. Not only will it kill bacteria on your gums and tongue, but it’ll draw the adhesive out. You can even buy mouthwash specifically tailored for denture wearers. 

When is it Not Safe to Use Denture Adhesive?

If you have an allergy or suspected allergy to any of the ingredients used in dental creams, you should refrain from using them. In such cases, you will need to rely on a properly-fitted set of dentures.  

Caution is also advised in anyone who doesn’t maintain proper dental hygiene or denture maintenance. If you’re fairly relaxed when it comes to cleaning your mouth and dentures, you may be more exposed to the potential harm caused by denture adhesive.  

For instance, if you’re not thoroughly cleaning it from your dentures, it will build-up and threaten the integrity of the dentures. If the same thing happens in your mouth, and the adhesive contains zinc, you may be exposing yourself to a potentially toxic dose. 

Popular Brands of Dental Adhesive

Fixodent is by far the most popular brand of denture adhesive in the United States. Based on figures gathered during 2018, Fixodent and Fixodent Plus accounted for over $130 million in sales, with Fixodent Free and Fixodent Food Seal also placing high on the list. Poligrip follows close behind and is available in several different varieties. To give you an idea of what to expect from these brands, take a look at the most popular denture adhesive products below: 

  • Super Poligrip: A zinc-free max-strength formula that is free of artificial colors and flavors. It features a uniquely designed tip that helps to prevent oozing and it costs around $5 to $7 a pack. 
  • Super Poligrip Extra Care: Poligrip’s Extra Care formula is also zinc-free and features the same ooze-control cap outlined above. It’s designed to hold all day and “seal out” food particles. We’re not sure how that makes it more effective than other formulas, as they do the same thing, but it has a lot of positive reviews and customers swear by its effectiveness. 
  • Fixodent Plus TrueFeel: The advertising claims that TrueFeel provides a more natural feel for partial and full dentures. TrueFeel is zinc-free and if you buy in bulk, it’s also relatively cheap. Fixodent is a very effective formula. It’s America’s biggest seller for a reason. 
  • NaturDent: If you’re not happy with the idea of using synthetic resins and petroleum-based products, NaturDent is a promising alternative. It’s made from pine resin and doesn’t include synthetic or harmful ingredients. It costs a little more, though, and the reviews are more mixed, with some suggesting it doesn’t work for them and others claiming that it’s great. 

Summary: Using Dental Adhesive

Although there are some concerns regarding the use of denture adhesive, it’s still a very safe and useful product when used as directed, especially if you use a zinc-free variety. After all, everything can be dangerous if you consume too much of it. The dose dictates whether a substance is a medicine or poison and even water can kill you if you drink too much of it. 

Just remember to always follow the instructions on the box, never exceed the recommended dose, and consult your doctor if you notice any issues that could hint at zinc toxicity or copper deficiency. If you find that you’re using a lot more denture adhesive than recommended, you should also consult with your dentist. They will look at your dentures and your gums, assess the situation and then provide some recommendations, including a repair, realignment, or a completely new set of dentures.

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