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Poor Fitting Dentures, Denture Pain Linked to a Variety of Health Woes

Nov 17, 2008

Poor fitting dentures are often more than just uncomfortable.  When dentures don't fit, wearers can experience severe denture pain, as well as a variety of health problems.  These problems can include mouth sores, malnutrition, and even a condition called neuropathy that can lead to permanent disability.

Poor fitting dentures can have a far-reaching impact on the quality of a person's life.  For that reason, it is important to see a dentist if you experience denture pain or mouth sores, as these symptoms can be the first sign of an improper fit.  Under no circumstances should someone with dentures attempt to "fix" fit problems with denture creams or other means, as this could lead to more serious consequences down the road.

One of the most telling signs of poor fitting dentures is denture pain.  When a patient is first fitted with dentures, they can be expected to experience some soreness during the first few weeks of wear. However if denture  pain is  continuous and long lasting, ill fitting dentures could be to blame.

When a denture rests snugly against the gums and doesn't slide around,  pain shouldn't be an issue.  But if dentures do not fit well, the pain caused can be excruciating.  This pain is the result of soft gum tissue being  sandwiched by a hard jawbone and the hard denture base.  This can lead to swelling, which will further impede the fit of the dentures, and make the pain worse.

Ill fitting dentures can also lead to painful, chronic mouth sores.  Candidiasis, a fungal

infection that also is called oral thrush, has been seen in people with poor fitting dentures.  Candidiasis may form a the corners of the mouth with poor fitting dentures.

People with ill-fitting dentures can also experience malnutrition.  A poor fit can cause people with dentures to avoid hard foods, or foods that require a lot of chewing.  Just the act of eating such foods can cause these people severe denture pain.

In 2003, the Third National Health and Examination Survey found that people with ill fitting dentures had lower dietary quality scores, consumed fewer fruits and vegetables and ate a lower variety of foods in their diet as compared with subjects with some of their own teeth, or people with properly fitting dentures.

The same study found that people with poor fitting dentures received inadequate amounts of absorbic acid and carotene in their diets.  Intake of vitamin C, E, beta carotene, lycopene and lutein/zeaxanthin were all significantly lower among people with ill-fitting dentures. 

Surprisingly, many people with ill-fitting dentures are at risk of developing neuropathy. Neuropathy is a condition that causes tingling or numbness in certain areas of the body, especially the hands and feet.  These sensations range from mild to painful.  If left untreated, neuropathy can cause permanent disability.

Neuropathy is not a consequence of the dentures themselves, but with the excessive amounts of denture cream many people use in an attempt to fix the problem.  Many denture creams, including popular brands like Super PoliGrip and Fixodent, contain zinc.  Excessive exposure to zinc can cause copper depletion, which can eventually lead to the symptoms of neuropathy.

In August 2008, the journal "Neurology" published a report on four denture cream users who developed severe neurological symptoms typical of  neuropathy.  The authors of the report, researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, determined that the patients' symptoms were caused by their exposure to zinc in denture cream.

All of the patients in the study used at least two tubes of denture cream every week.  When used as directed, a tube of denture cream should last around 3 weeks.  Several of the subjects had been using excessive amounts of denture cream on a daily basis for years.  All of the patients had abnormally high levels of zinc in their blood, accompanied by abnormally low levels of copper. 

Some of the patients neuropathy symptoms improved when they stopped using denture cream.  Unfortunately, none of the patients recovered completely, even after they began taking copper supplements.

Poor fitting dentures should never be thought of as a minor health problem.  People with dentures who are experiencing denture pain or mouth sores should see their dentist immediately.  It is also important to continue with regular dental visits, as denture fit can change over time.





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