One of the first questions that comes to mind when people consider using a fluoride-free toothpaste is, “Does fluoride-free toothpaste still protect my enamel?” As controversies surrounding fluoride have surfaced over the years, fluoride-free toothpaste options have become more abundant. But many people wonder if they’re being forced to pick between a controversial ingredient and their enamel health.
Luckily, there have been many advances since the 1950’s when fluoride first came on the scene as a widely used toothpaste ingredient. There are now effective alternative options available – including natural toothpaste ingredients like hydroxyapatite, which we’ll talk about here – that promote healthy enamel, naturally!
What is Hydroxyapatite?
Remember your mom always telling you to drink more milk so you could get enough calcium to grow big and strong? That’s because the mineral calcium is important for the health of our bones and teeth.
The bigger picture is that calcium is actually an integral part of a larger crystalline complex called Hydroxyapatite, which is a naturally occurring mineral that is made up of calcium and phosphate. Hydroxyapatite accounts for roughly three-quarters of our body’s bones by weight, and more importantly makes up about 97% of our tooth enamel!
So, since it’s the exact same material that enamel is made of, this mineral is naturally compatible with our teeth. As a key ingredient in our natural toothpaste, hydroxyapatite provides a range of proven benefits:
- Enamel support
- Protection against tooth sensitivity
- Helps prevent plaque from sticking to teeth
Toothpaste in Action: Hydroxyapatite vs. Fluoride
So how does hydroxyapatite compare to fluoride during use?
The main difference between the two ingredients boils down to this: fluoride changes the composition of your enamel in order to try to ward off cavities, while hydroxyapatite restores your tooth enamel to its most ideal, natural state.
How Fluoride Works
Despite the controversy surrounding it, most scientists agree that fluoride can have a protective effect on tooth enamel. Here’s what’s happening inside your mouth when you brush with fluoride toothpaste:
There’s a chemical reaction that happens when the fluoride ions in your toothpaste come into contact with the surface of your tooth enamel, which creates a material called fluorapatite.
If you think that sounds an awful lot like hydroxyapatite, you’re right. That’s because the fluoride actually kicks out the hydroxyl groups that are naturally present in the hydroxyapatite (which is what makes up your enamel), and replaces them with fluoride to create fluorapatite.
This new material, fluorapatite, helps protect your teeth by creating a hard shell on the surface of your teeth that is actually a slightly harder substance than your original tooth enamel – but, this is a foreign substance that’s not naturally present in your body.
How Hydroxyapatite Toothpaste Works
On the other hand, hydroxyapatite doesn’t undergo the same type of chemical transformation when interacting with your teeth; it doesn’t need to change since it’s identical to your tooth enamel to start with!
Unlike fluoride toothpaste which reacts on the surface of the teeth, hydroxyapatite’s similarity to your teeth allows it to act on the deeper layers of tooth enamel. Studies have shown that this allows hydroxyapatite to have a significant restorative effect on enamel from the inside out, resulting in additional benefits, like whitening and protecting against tooth sensitivity!
Making the Best Choice for Your Teeth
All in all, as more advances in technology are made it’s becoming clear that there are natural, effective toothpaste options out there beyond the standard fluoride toothpastes.
Hopefully you’re now armed with a bit more knowledge about the options out there, and can make an educated choice on how you can treat your pearly whites right!
Mason Montgomery, Dr. Squatch Product Development Manager
Mason is a scientist and avid music lover working at Dr. Squatch as a Product Development Manager.
Before joining the Squatch Nation, Mason worked at Unilever on the Research & Development team for various global brands. He has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University.