Keeping Tooth Enamel Intact – the Fluoride-Free Way!
Looking at a tooth, it can be hard to realize that each one is a living organ. They look so hard. White. Bone-like. But that’s just the enamel you’re seeing, which protects the living tissues inside. In fact, enamel is the hardest tissue in the human body. Structurally, it’s amazing stuff. Take a look:
Enamel is also irreplaceable. If any of it is damaged – by decay, for example, or excessive wear from habitual clenching and grinding, or the effect of acids from a heavy soda habit – you can’t grow new enamel. Once your teeth have developed, you no longer have the specialized cells needed to do so.
Damaged enamel means sensitive teeth – and easier access for harmful bacteria to get to the more delicate living tissues within.
Your Teeth Have Natural Defense Mechanisms
The good news is that your teeth have defense mechanisms. As with the rest of your body’s defense systems, they just need our support. Eating right is where it starts.
Underneath the enamel of a tooth is a softer layer of tissue called dentin. Dentin actually consists of miles of microscopic tubules through which fluid flows, delivering nutrients from the pulp chamber to the dentin that surrounds it. Normally, it flows in an outward direction, which also helps repel pathogens. But under certain circumstances – most notably, high sugar intake – the flow can stagnate or even reverse, drawing pathogens into the tooth.
By limiting sugars, you not only keep this from happening; you maintain more alkaline conditions in the mouth – a more favorable state of affairs overall.
A healthful, nutrient-dense diet is also key for providing minerals that your saliva continually delivers to the enamel, naturally remineralizing it. Calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus are especially important, along with the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, which help with calcium absorption and transport.
One mineral you don’t need? Fluoride. It doesn’t occur naturally in tooth enamel, and too much of it can actually damage tooth enamel, discoloring and even pitting it – a condition called dental fluorosis.
Calcium and phosphorus, on the other hand, make up the bulk of natural tooth enamel in a combined form called hydroxyapatite. (This same mineral compound is dominant in your bones, as well.)
This raises a key question: Why give your teeth a mineral they don’t need – one that is highly toxic to human life, at that – when you can give them what they’re actually made of?
Boost Remineralization with a Hydroxyapatite Toothpaste
While the ideal is to get all the nutrients you need through healthy eating, the reality is that a lot of us can use some extra help now and again. That’s where a product like hydroxyapatite toothpaste comes into play.
In fact, research has shown quite consistently that hydroxyapatite toothpaste is just as or even more effective than fluoride toothpaste in preventing demineralization, reducing tooth sensitivity, and even treating early decay. (See this and this and this and this, for instance.)
As a recent review of the science on this kind of remineralizing toothpaste summarized,
HAP [hydroxyapatite] is a biomimetic oral care agent, and its caries prevention has been tested in vivo, in situ, and in vitro with a high safety profile and no risk of fluorosis. While more research is needed to confirm the clinical effectiveness of HAP at preventing and arresting dental caries, the research suggesting its equivalency to fluoride toothpaste is promising. HAP-containing oral products can be considered as an alternative in young children where fluorosis is a concern. In addition to perhaps reducing the need for traditional dental restorations, HAP also offers relief from dentin hypersensitivity and reduces biofilm formation making it a multifunctional agent for preventive oral health care.
There are many hydroxyapatite toothpastes currently available. One of our favorites is Risewell, which not only delivers the minerals but naturally antimicrobial essential oils, as well as xylitol and erythritol, two sugar alcohols that reduce biofilm (plaque) formation and actually prevent decay.
In fact, we love it so much, we feature Risewell products in the complementary wellness gift we give to new patients!
Our other favorite remineralizing toothpaste is by Boka. Like Risewell, Boka is 100% biocompatible, with no harmful ingredients like SLS and fluoride. The mint flavor is also loaded with natural antimicrobials to help maintain a healthy mouth.
If you opt to look for other brands, one important thing to keep in mind: Not all toothpastes advertised as “remineralizing” contain hydroxyapatite. So make sure you check ingredient lists carefully, whether in the store or browsing online. Look for the presence of hydroxyapatite and the absence of fluoride (not to mention SLS, artificial colors, artificial flavors, or other sketchy ingredients).