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Toothpaste and mouthwash containing hydroxyapatite have caused quite a buzz in the health and wellness press. Sometimes, patients ask us, “Is hydroxyapatite safe?” Given some unhealthy practices that became influencer trends in dental care and wellness, we appreciate it when patients ask questions like this.
First, we need to remind you this article isn’t a substitute for personalized dental care. Dentistry is both an art and a science, and your dentist needs to examine you and discuss your complete medical history in order to give you specific guidance and care.
This article is purely educational. Also, keep in mind that research is ongoing about whether hydroxyapatite is a safe and effective alternative to traditional fluoride.
What is Hydroxyapatite?
Our bones and teeth contain hydroxyapatite, a naturally occurring calcium form. It’s also found in eggshells, fish scales, and elsewhere in nature. Of course, just because it is natural doesn’t automatically tell us whether it is effective and which concentration is safe.
People use it to remineralize the teeth, similar to fluoride. Acids, either from acidic food or bacteria in the mouth, leach minerals from the teeth. This makes your teeth vulnerable to cavities and decay. Remineralization aims to put minerals back into your teeth to strengthen and reinforce them. Medical researchers are also looking into other ways to use a form of hydroxyapatite to restore bone tissue and for implants.
Is hydroxyapatite effective?
Some alternative toothpastes contain hydroxyapatite instead of fluoride. Fans claim it is less toxic than fluoride and effective since it is a form of a substance that is part of the teeth.
Initial research about how effective hydroxyapatite is at strengthening and remineralizing teeth is promising, according to a study published in Odontology. Another study found toothpaste containing hydroxyapatite is as effective as fluoride toothpaste. Still, more research is needed.
The American Dental Association (ADA) still considers fluoride toothpaste the gold standard. The ADA’s current standards require fluoride so that the toothpaste doesn’t contain ingredients like sugar that contribute to tooth decay, and it meets certain safety standards. Toothpaste containing hydroxyapatite, but not fluoride, isn’t currently ADA-approved, but that may change as more research unfolds.
Fluoride works along with the calcium and phosphate already in healthy saliva to help strengthen and remineralize teeth. Toothpaste contains small but effective doses of fluoride. Fluoride is toxic if you inject or use too much. This is why some patients and dentists are keen to find an alternative.
The way hydroxyapatite potentially works is a little different. Your teeth absorb it, and it fills in gaps from mineral loss. You could say it strengthens your teeth from the inside out. While research is promising, more needs to be done before turning away from tried and true flourish.
If you are considering new and alternative products, we encourage you to do so in coordination with your dentist. Your dentist is in a stronger position when it comes to sorting through and understanding the research.
Potential Benefits of Hydroxyapatite
Proponents note several potential benefits of using hydroxyapatite, based in part on its role in the body:
- It’s friendly to the beneficial microbiome in your mouth while also helping protect the teeth from acid-producing bacteria.
- Like fluoride, it also strengthens and fortifies your tooth enamel.
- It may subtly help whiten teeth as well as strengthen them.
- It’s less toxic than fluoride, though researchers still need to determine the safest and most effective dosage.
Fluoride may be stronger and better at combating acids in the mouth, but that also still requires more research. In studies, fluoride toothpaste and toothpaste containing hydroxyapatite seem to be similar in terms of effectiveness.
Is hydroxyapatite safe?
The EU’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) considers hydroxyapatite to be safe when used at up to 10% concentrations for toothpaste and up to 0.465% concentrations for mouthwash, according to the European Commission. But this safety evaluation requires that it is hydroxyapatite (nano) that:
- It is composed of rod-shaped particles in a particular size range
- Those particles are not surface-modified. Or coated.
Other studies referenced earlier also indicate it is safe if the concentration is low. This statement is subject to change if new research proves otherwise.
Whichever Toothpaste Your Dentist Approves, Consistently Follow Your At-Home Hygiene Plan
Consistent at-home cleaning and care are crucial to the health of your teeth. This includes:
- Brush your teeth twice a day using a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste recommended by your dentist. (Note: ADA-approved toothpaste currently contains fluoride).
- Floss daily.
- Follow any other specific recommendations your dentists give specific to your needs. This may include remineralizing mouthwash, wearing a mouthguard at night to protect your teeth from grinding impact, or even using a Waterpik.
- See your dentist twice a year for a professional cleaning and examination.
Living an oral-health-friendly lifestyle is also essential. This includes drinking plain, still water to keep the mouth moist and dilute acids in the mouth. Limiting sugary and acidic beverages, including soda, coffee, wine, and fruit juice. If you must enjoy these beverages, try to contain them to specific times when you can gently brush your teeth a half hour or so afterward.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet. It can be a little confusing since there are healthy foods that are acidic and can harm the teeth. Examples include citrus fruit, tomatoes, vinegar, and other acidic foods. Limit them to mealtimes. Flush the acids with water right after eating and gently brush your teeth 20-30 minutes after eating.
If you happen to be a smoker, please stop, as it has so many harmful effects in addition to damaging your gums.
Your cleaning and examination are ideal times to ask any questions you may have about dental care, such as what your dentist thinks about hydroxyapatite, tooth whitening, or anything else you want to learn more about.
If you live in or near the Charlotte, NC area, Southview Dentistry is here for your dental needs, whether you need general preventative care, cosmetic dentistry, or specialized therapies. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.