January 6, 2022

What is Hydroxyapatite and What is it Used For?

In a recent segment of BURST tv, dental hygienist, Gina, shared all about hydroxyapatite. In this article, we’ll be covering what Gina taught us. Specifically, what is hydroxyapatite, where/how is it used, and what benefit it has for us especially for our smiles.

First, what is hydroxyapatite? In it’s natural form, hydroxyapatite is a form of the mineral calcium apatite. It makes up a large part of the bones and our teeth. In fact, our bones are made up of 70% hydroxyapatite. It also makes up 90% of our tooth enamel. Hydroxyapatite is found in mammals, shrimp, fish, seashells, some rocks like limestone, and even sea coral. In medicine, hydroxyapatite is one of the most studied biomaterials. Because it is already found naturally in our bodies, hydroxyapatite is biocompatible meaning that it can bind to bone without producing any toxic reactions or an immune response that could harm our bodies.

The type of hydroxyapatite used in medicine is called nano hydroxyapatite. Nano meaning a microscopic form. Nano hydroxyapatite or NHA is a synthetic made form of the mineral. It was first developed by NASA to help astronauts because they were losing minerals from their teeth and bones in the absence of gravity. (Thank you, NASA!) So, where is hydroxyapatite used in medicine? Nano hydroxyapatite has been used in joint replacement surgeries where the joint replacement implant itself is coated with NHA. It helps integrate the new joint and makes the body less likely to reject it. The mineral coating encourages new bone growth around the implant itself.

What about hydroxyapatite in dentistry? We know that 90% of our enamel is composed of hydroxyapatite and it is also found in our saliva. NHA has been used to coat dental implants like the joint replacement implants. It is a also added to filling materials like glass ionomers because it helps strengthen the teeth against our normal chewing forces as it is a hard material. Additionally, it helps prevent decay from forming when it is added to the glass ionomers. It is used to fix periodontal bone defects and in maxillofacial surgery for the reconstruction of the facial skeleton.

More recently, NHA has been added to toothpaste because it helps keep the teeth strong, prevent tooth decay, and combats sensitivity. Currently, the BURSTkids Strawberry Superstar toothpaste contains NHA. It is an awesome ingredient because the little ones who can’t be trusted to spit out their toothpaste at the end of brushing shouldn’t be using a toothpaste containing fluoride. NHA is a great alternative ingredient to fluoride which offers similar benefits.

You might be wondering then, how is NHA different from fluoride? In the United States, fluoride has been the #1 cavity fighting agent found in toothpaste. Fluoride strengths tooth enamel by binding to it and creating a stronger, harder surface that’s more resistant to tooth decay. Nano hydroxyapatite instead of absorbing into the enamel itself creates a new layer of synthetic enamel the tooth. In clinical studies, it’s been found to be effective in preventing tooth decay and sensitivity as well as fluoride does. It is also non-toxic if ingested.

If you have any further questions about hydroxyapatite, head on over to our YouTube channel and post your questions on the video linked below!