Safety issues associated with the use of denture cleansers. -

The products used to clean dentures can be considered safe. But only when used within their guidelines.

Few people experience safety issues related to the use of denture cleansers but health risks can arise.

This page discusses the types of reactions that sometimes occur with different types of cleaners (with case examples), signs and symptoms to watch out for, what to do if a reaction is noticed, as well as general rules for keeping denture cleaning safe.

1) Safety issues with persulfate denture cleansers.

One of the most publicized safety issues associated with cleaning false teeth involves the compound persulfate.

  • Many of the commercial preparations used to make soaking solutions contain either potassium persulfate or potassium monopersulfate.
  • This includes "effervescent" denture cleansers. It's included in their formulation as a cleaning and bleaching agent.
FDA report

In February 2008, the Food and Drug Administration issued a report about persulfate risks. It stated that they had received information about 73 severe reactions involving this compound. They pointed out that the incidences involved both the proper and improper use of the cleansers.

a) Allergic reactions to persulfate.

Persulfate compounds are known allergens (triggers of allergic reactions). And even when products that contain them are used within their recommended guidelines, a reaction can occur.

[Related content: Homemade alternatives that don't contain persulfates.]

Case #1:

Of the reports we read through on the FDA website, the following one seemed quite typical. It involves a woman had an established bedtime routine of using a persulfate-containing denture cleaner, according to the guidelines of the product.

  • Before going to bed she noticed itching around her eyes (one sign of having an allergic reaction) and in response (appropriately) took a dose of the medication benedryl.
  • Some hours later she woke up having difficulty breathing due to swelling of her throat. At that time, she was taken to the hospital for emergency treatment and ultimately recovered.

You should take notice of the fact that her reaction occurred after having an established history of persulfate use. This is not uncommon. Her reaction happened to have a slow onset, some types of allergic reactions can occur instantaneously.

Case #2:

We found the following report in published dental literature (Le Coz, 1999) [References for this page.]

  • A man wearing his 3 year-old denture developed a chronic inflammation of the lips (a cheilitis).
  • Testing determined that he had an allergic response to the denture cleaner he used which contained 20% potassium persulfate.
  • The man became symptom free after avoiding the use of the cleanser.
  • What's interesting about this case is that the manner in which the man used the product was within its guidelines.

    His persulfate exposure stemmed from solution that had been absorbed by both denture plastic and built up tartar accumulation.

[Related content: Using homemade vinegar soak to remove tartar deposits.]

b) Misuse of persulfate products.

The inappropriate use of persulfate cleansers is a second source for safety concerns.

A FDA publication (2013) relates the following incidents involving misuse. Both involved serious reactions, one resulted in death.

  • An 81 year-old man who, after soaking his false teeth, gargled with his denture cleanser.
  • A 74 year-old woman who ate 6 denture cleaning tablets.

In these types of incidences, the resulting medical issue may be an allergic reaction. Or the compounds may cause tissue damage or be toxic when ingested.

Whatever the medical issue, nothing is more important to keep in mind than that these products are intended for external use only. The denture cleaner (tablet, powder, soaking solution) is meant to be used in a container, never in the mouth.

A bottle of household bleach.

Household bleach can be used to make a denture soak.

2) Safety issues for bleach-based denture soaks.

Our homemade denture cleanser page discusses the use of bleach-based soaking solution (0.5% sodium hypochlorite). There can be safety issues associated with its use.

a) Allergic reactions to bleach.

Some people will experience an allergic reaction to bleach-based solution (of any concentration), with varying symptoms and onset as described below.

b) Oral and intestinal exposure.

[The following information pertains to bleach-based solutions having a sodium hypochlorite concentration as high as 10% (20 times the concentration of the homemade denture cleanser our pages describe using). Household bleach straight out of the bottle typically has a concentration of 5 to 6%.]

Adults, 200ml or less (0.85 cups), 10% sodium hypochlorite or less.

At this concentration:

  • The solution is typically a mild to moderate tissue irritant that usually causes minimal health effects.
  • It may cause burns to the mouth, throat, esophagus and stomach. (Severe irritation is possible when prolonged contact or large quantities are involved.)
  • It may cause inflammation and pain of the mouth, throat, esophagus and gastrointestinal irritation. Difficulty with swallowing. Abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.

(Bull 2011)

3) Keeping denture cleaning safe.

a) The product's directions must be followed.

It goes without saying that you must read the directions of the product you use. These instructions have been formulated with user safety in mind. They must be followed.

Elderly persons.

As the example cases above demonstrate, denture cleaner misuse is often associated with elderly persons and difficulties they may have.

  • Poor eyesight. - The user may literally be unable to read the fine-print directions found on their product.
  • The mental status of the user must be considered. - Some may have an inability to comprehend the meaning or importance of instructions.

That means the activities of people who are at risk must be monitored.

Soaking false teeth in a homemade denture cleaning solution.

Cleaning solutions are for soaking only.

b) Denture cleaners are for external use only.

Cleaning products for false teeth should never be chewed, swallowed or gargled.

Mouthwash terminology.

A part of some user's confusion may stem from the labeling on products that state claims about having a fresh or minty taste. This type of language may mistakenly be interpreted as suggesting that the product can be used as mouthwash too.

Mouthwash itself makes a poor choice for soaking false teeth. And no denture cleaner should ever be used in the mouth.

c) Rinsing your appliance.

False teeth should always be rinsed off thoroughly with cool water before they are inserted back into your mouth.

  • The ingredients found in denture cleansers can be irritating to soft oral tissues.
  • Even residual traces of soaking solutions and cleaning products can trigger an allergic reaction.

d) Watch for signs of a reaction to the cleanser.

Reactions can include (but are not limited to) the signs and symptoms listed below, not all of which will occur immediately.

Allergic reactions -

Symptoms can include the following, which won't necessarily just involve oral tissues: itching, rash, hives, tissue redness, gum tenderness, difficulty with breathing, hypotension (low blood pressure).

The symptoms you experience may appear immediately or possibly not for some hours after your exposure. Prolonged exposure to products (days, months) may cause chronic tissue irritation.

Signs associated with cleaner misuse (including gargling and swallowing) -

Tissue bleaching, irritation, burns or damage. Foaming from the mouth. Especially in the case of ingestion, abdominal pain, breathing problems, seizures, vomiting, hypotension or blood in urine.

4) What should you do if a reaction occurs?

  • Remove your dentures. Rinse your mouth out with water to minimize whatever residual traces of the cleaner remain.
  • Contact your dentist and/or local emergency response system. Dialing 1-800-222-1222 (a service of the National Capital Poison Center) will put you in contact with the poison center in your local area.
  • Make note of the specific product you have used so that information can be given to your attending healthcare provider.
  • Consider filing a report with the FDA so your experience is included in their database. Doing so may help them identify trending problems with your brand or type of cleanser.

5) Ingredients found in commercial denture cleansers.

Commercial products for cleaning false teeth generally fall into one of the following four categories.

a) Alkaline Peroxidases.

This is probably the type of denture cleanser you're most familiar with. It typically comes packaged in tablet or powder form and is used for daily overnight soaks.

One characteristic of these products is they effervesce (release oxygen bubbles). This creates a weak scrubbing action on the soaking appliance's surface. These products typically are effective for denture disinfection.

Ingredients frequently included: sodium perborate, sodium percarbonate, sodium bicarbonate, potassium monopersulfate, troclosene potassium

The FDA has issued a report about safety concerns associated with the use of persulfate compounds, see our discussion above.

b) Alkaline Hypochlorites

Hypochlorite is the active ingredient found in bleach, which makes these products good for disinfecting dentures as well as removing stains. They're not, however, especially good at removing tartar.

Using this type of product involves similar precautions as with homemade bleach-based soaks (see above). Hypochlorite solutions can corrode metal denture parts.

Ingredients frequently included: sodium hypochlorite

c) Acids.

Some professional denture cleaning products are acidic in nature. They frequently contain diluted forms of hydrocholoric or phosphoric acids.

Because they're acidic, they excel in removing tartar (accumulated mineral deposits). But due to the care with which they must be handled, they don't make an appropriate choice for home use. As a homemade alternative, vinegar soaks (acetic acid) can be used.

Ingredients frequently included: hydrocholoric acid, phosphoric acids

d) Detergents and enzymes.

Some commercial denture cleaners are detergent and enzyme based. Others have these ingredients added so to boost their cleansing effectiveness. [Detergent also aids denture brushing.]

Ingredients frequently included: Sodium polyphosphate, trisodium phosphate, everlace.



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