Toothpaste manufacturers are keen to hook new customers with new flavors, styles and ingredients. For every great addition to toothpaste, there’s a handful of other trends that can actually harm teeth. Evaluating manufacturer claims isn’t always as simple as glancing at a product’s ingredient list. Keeping a keen, critical eye toward what’s in your dental products — and realistic expectations — can go a long way in preventing costly and painful mistakes.
As the trendiness of charcoal toothpaste (which is actually more harmful to your teeth than not) wanes, the next “new” thing appears to be nano-hydroxyapatite, a mineral that advertisers claim is comparable to fluoride in protecting teeth. But is it all hype?
What Is Nano-Hydroxyapatite?
Hydroxyapatite is a calcium phosphorus compound found naturally in our bodies. It’s the mineral form of calcium apatite, and is found in teeth, bones and even our saliva. When looking at our teeth, the enamel is made up of approximately 97% of this mineral, and the dentin — the layer below the enamel — is about 70% composed of calcium phosphorus in the form of calcium or hydroxyapatite.
Nano-hydroxyapatite is the synthetic version of this crucial mineral. Made in a lab rather than in your body, it’s virtually identical to the kind your body makes and is considered biocompatible.
What Does Nano-Hydroxyapatite Do?
The claim is that nano-hydroxyapatite (Nano-HAp) can help strengthen teeth through remineralization — and preliminary research has backed this claim. Remineralization means filling in micro cracks and fissures on the tooth’s surface, as well as helping rebuild damaged spots where cavities are just beginning to take hold. It can also aid in reducing hypersensitivity to hot and cold sensations.
It’s also been noted that Nano-HAp oral care products can help in the reduction of plaque, a reduction in gum irritation due to mild gingivitis and a significant reduction in oral bacteria that can contribute to dental decay and gum degradation.
Is It Actually New?
The first notable use of Nano-HAp in dental care was in the 1970s as a treatment for NASA astronauts returning from space who had experienced remarkable bone mass loss and enamel losses to their teeth. While the biomedical use of the ingredient seemed to help, it never really took off as an ingredient in the United States, where fluoride was the go-to ingredient for keeping teeth strong, healthy and protected.
A Japanese company, Sangi Co., Ltd., acquired the patent for use from NASA in 1978 and began adding it to the first commercially available toothpaste for the purpose of remineralizing teeth. This product is still sold today, and many consider the ingredient the “gold standard” of tooth decay prevention and treatment in Japan.
So Why Isn’t It More Prevalent?
Fluoride has been the gold standard for dental care and protection in the United States since 1912. In recent years, both Nano-HAp and fluoride have been shown to provide comparable levels of protection from acid erosion and damage, but they work in very different ways.
Fluoride works mostly from the outside, to create a sort of shield around teeth to prevent further damage and decay. Nano-HAp products penetrate deeper, causing that same shield to build up gradually from the inside out. Nano-HAp is more susceptible to acid damage than fluoride, a finding that bears more research in the future.
Is Nano-Hydroxyapatite Better than Fluoride?
Early research touted Nano-HAp as a better ingredient than fluoride, but further studies show that the two ingredients are comparable. Nano-HAp may be better suited to some people depending on their situations.
Those who develop skin reactions to fluoride may find toothpastes containing Nano-HAp a viable alternative. Those with higher risk factors for fluorosis (a condition marked by too much fluoride exposure) may also find Nano-HAp toothpastes a better choice for their teeth. Young children, pregnant women or those whose drinking supply already contains high amounts of fluoride may find these newer toothpastes more suitable for keeping their teeth healthy and safe.
Where to Find It
Speak to your dentist about using nano-hydroxyapatite toothpaste versus traditional fluoride toothpastes. Know that none of them will bear the American Dental Association seal of approval, as toothpastes must contain fluoride to gain that seal. If you’re at a high risk of fluorosis or find yourself unable to use fluoride-containing tooth care products because of an allergy or sensitivity, using nano-hydroxyapatite products may provide you with a comparable level of protection to traditional products.
Several well-known, trusted and scientifically backed brands exist, including Apgard and Aclaim. Other toothpastes are hitting the market with Nano-HAp as an ingredient, but they have not undergone the same levels of scientific trials as those two brands specifically. Because they’re unproven and untested, trendy toothpastes containing this ingredient should be avoided until further trials are conducted.
How We Can Help
Although we’re big fans of fluoride at the office of Drs. Krieger and Hur, we’re willing to work with you to find a solution that gets you brushing your teeth regularly and keeps discomfort and pain to a minimum. If you find yourself struggling to brush regularly because of issues with your toothpaste, we can work with you to find one that meets your needs.
The first step is booking an exam and cleaning. You can reach us at the office by calling (201) 560-0606 to secure your time. You can also reach us via email by clicking here. We look forward to seeing you and will do our best to make brushing a pleasant and enjoyable experience for you — no matter what toothpaste you plan on using.