Local dental technician’s business makes “biocompatible” dentures and detoxifies existing ones
Mark Emerson Mesku is passionate about polymers. He knows they can be useful, when used in the right place. He also knows that not every formulation is the same.
The latter information is especially important when it comes to things you put in your body—specifically, in your mouth. He’s learned the hard way that not all dentures are made equally, and that a common polymer can make wearers and manufacturers ill.
Mesku is a dental technician who moved from Southern California to Paradise in 2003. A decade earlier, he was working for a company that operated a large group of dental labs—seemingly at the peak of his career—when he started a health decline that hit rock bottom in 1996.
Over the course of the next few years, he found a connection between his ailing health and exposure to a resin used in many dentures. He began to share what he’d learned with other dental technicians, in the hope they’d adopt safer manufacturing practices.
He also sought ways to make things safer for denture-wearers.
Mesku’s work culminated in Pure Cure Denture Detox, a venture he runs out of his Skyway dental lab with the help of his two adult daughters, Melissa and Merinne. The business not only manufactures “biocompatible” resin-based dentures, but also has a patent-pending process for detoxifying existing dentures.
Mesku works with about a dozen Butte County dentists, and he’s about to make a push to broaden his network of providers. Meanwhile, Brooklyn-based Melissa is working Wall Street to find venture-capital investors for their passion project.
“It’s definitely a family affair, a long-standing family issue of the toxicity of the chemicals that are in dentures,” Melissa said in a phone interview from New York City. “It’s been a personal trial for him, and I’ve always thought of him as a bit of a vigilante. This is one way of seeking justice. …
“He’s coming at this business not from the stance of, ‘This is a great idea, let’s make some money,’ but coming at it from a stance of, ‘This is an issue that needs to be solved,’ and taking a product to market that’s better than what exists already is a way to solve this problem.”
Indeed, Mark Mesku has intentions that go beyond his firm. As he explained in a phone interview from Paradise, “We’re right on the cutting edge of trying to bring accountability to a largely unregulated industry. There is no certification in most states for a dental technician to fabricate a denture; it’s not even like a cosmetologist’s license or a barber’s license. … The denture-[wearing] population isn’t told who’s making their dentures.
“So, we have kind of taken on a Goliath here in the scope of trying to bring some credibility to this industry that I believe is responsible for making Americans ill, and they don’t even know it.”
Mesku cites his own situation as exhibit A. Twenty years ago, he began to experience symptoms he first chalked up to the stress of a high-production job: peripheral neuropathy (pain and tingling in the extremities), anxiety attacks and moodiness. His condition continued to worsen, so his doctor referred him to a toxicologist, who determined that Mesku had high levels of polymethyl methacrylate, or PMMA, in his bloodstream.
PMMA is a common ingredient in dentures.
Mesku spent the next three years on disability, during which time he visited university libraries across Southern California to research his condition. He found “a mountain of evidence” connecting exposure to denture resin to health problems.
“These are very toxic petrochemicals that most technicians are told to look out for, for symptoms of overexposure,” he said. “When I started talking with technicians and said, ‘Let me give you these studies from all over the world,’ the light went on.”
Mesku became concerned not only for his colleagues, but for their customers as well.
“What we’ve found is that dentures are not inert; they have a tendency to biodegrade because of acids in the mouth as well as acidic foods,” he explained. “This causes myriad problems for denture wearers that in many cases get dismissed by doctors as just symptoms of old age.”
In 1999, Mesku opened his own “mom-and-pop” lab in Loma Linda and began manufacturing dentures with “what I believed were the safest acrylics in the world”—materials he imported from the United Kingdom and had tested at FDA-accredited laboratories. “We’re still searching for the purest formulas in the world,” he said, “and I’ve contacted virtually every chemical manufacturer on the planet.”
Mesku continued to make dentures after moving to Paradise and opening a new lab. In 2010, he began working to find a way to detoxify dentures made by others, and through “trial and error” discovered the process his lab has used over the past year. He has applied for a patent for Pure Cure Denture Detox.
Looking ahead, Melissa said, “There are a number of directions that this company can go. We can stay small and just grow it small, but we can do a lot of other things if we had larger capital to work with.”
She’s exploring the option of expansion from her East Coast base of operations.
“We would not be a traditional investment,” Melissa said. “Venture capital is a non-traditional investment in the first place, but we wouldn’t even be a traditional investment in that alternative space. That doesn’t mean that it’s not something to try to pursue.”
In the meantime, Mark Mesku is ramping up an outreach effort to North State dental offices. Through the firm’s website, www.purecuredenturedetox.com, he’s received inquiries from a far wider radius.
“Forty-five million Americans wear some form of dentures,” he said. “This is something that goes beyond state lines and economic lines.”