You don’t really need them, do you?

You don’t really need them, do you?

By: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ros Anita Omar

The Malaysian demographic is undergoing a significant transformation, highlighted by the rapid growth of its ageing population. Statistics from the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) showed that by 2050, more than 15% of the nation’s population will be above the age of 65. What’s even more striking is the projection by the World Bank, suggesting that Malaysia could attain super-aged status by 2056, with individuals aged 65 and above constituting over 20% of the total population.

This demographic shift is accompanied by an increase in a particular aspect of healthcare—denture wearers. As individuals age or due to various dental conditions, the prevalence of denture use is becoming increasingly prevalent. Consequently, there’s been a noticeable increase in advertisements promoting denture adhesives, thus posing a critical question: are these adhesives truly needed?

What are they, you asked?

You see, over time, the natural shrinkage of bone structure within the oral cavity of denture wearers leads to a gradual loosening of the dentures. This phenomenon often translates to discomfort and difficulties in essential functions such as eating and speaking.

Enter denture adhesives— commonly available in the form of pastes, powders, cream or adhesive pads—specifically designed to address this problem. Their primary function revolves around stabilising dentures by filling gaps left by the bone shrinkage. This stability not only enhances comfort but also reinstates functionality, allowing individuals to carry out daily activities with ease.

Beyond addressing bone shrinkage-related concerns, denture adhesives serve a variety of purposes too. For instance, it counteracts the dry mouth effects of certain medications, such as cough medicines. Denture adhesives also help to enhance security for speakers and musicians, who rely on clear articulation and precise movements of the mouth during performances. And denture wearers normally get a general sense of reassurance and confidence in the stability afforded by these adhesives.

While denture adhesives offer significant support for wearers, it is important to acknowledge the associated risks and precautions too, as outlined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA):

Zinc content concerns: Some denture adhesives contain zinc, considered safe when used in moderation and as directed. However, excessive use can lead to potential harm. Long-term accumulation of zinc in the body has been associated with neurological issues, including numbness and difficulties related to balance and mobility.

Usage recommendations: Ideally, well-fitted dentures should maintain proper suction without the necessity of adhesives. If adhesive is deemed necessary, it should be sparingly used—only a drop equivalent to the size of a pencil eraser is recommended.

Monitoring usage: If a substantial amount of adhesive is consistently required for denture stability, it may indicate potential harm. In such cases, discontinuing the use of adhesives, seeking consultation with a dentist or physician, and opting for zinc-free alternatives is advised.

In the majority of cases, appropriately fitted and maintained dentures should not require denture adhesives. Should you notice a decline in denture fit over time, even with the use of more adhesives, it might be a good time to consult your dentist. This could signal the need for adjustments, relining, or potentially new dentures, thereby eliminating the necessity for potentially hazardous adhesives.

Therefore, learn to resist the allure of advertisements that advocate for unnecessary reliance on denture adhesives. Understanding the underlying reasons for their usage is highly important. Let your confident smile comes from genuine comfort and functionality, rather than dependency on adhesive effects.

The author is an Associate Professor at the Department of Restorative Dentistry, Faculty of Dentistry, Universiti Malaya, and may be reached at [email protected]


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