What is hydroxyapatite?

Scientists have been experimenting with nano particles for decades, and their usefulness in the health sphere has been controversial. So what is hydroxyapatite and why is it getting so much attention lately?

Calcium apatite is a hexagonally structured compound made up of calcium, phosphorous, and oxygen, and naturally occurs in our bodies.

60 to 70% of our bones are made up of calcium, and about 90% of our tooth enamel consists of it as well.

Woman Smile Teeth Photo Holding

Our bodies undergo a process of de-mineralization of bone matter as we age, and so older people are at a higher risk of breaking their bones even after even a slight fall or trauma.

So remineralization of the bones - through supplements and calcium-rich foods - is essential for everyone as they get older.

What is nano hydroxyapatite?

Extensive research in bio-available nano particles have created this nano-sized form of calcium apatite called hydroxyapatite, abbreviated as NAHA.

Bio-availability means that when a compound is ingested, the body can readily use it without having to process and convert it into a readily useable form.

This discovery and usefulness of NAHA has been show in laboratory experiments to be stable when exposed to temperature, pH and body fluid compositions, meaning it is safe in the conditions in the human body.

Since calcium is so important to our bone health, and NAHA it is so similar in its chemical composition and crystallography to human hard tissue, it can be used as an additive supplement for bone remineralization.

Surgeons who need to repair bones will actually coat the bone with NAHA in order to stimulate the repair of the bones. Since NAHA is naturally occurring, the body is far less likely to reject it as an implant.

It has been shown to be more effective in repairing and remineralizing bones than other calcium supplements, such as calcium carbonate.

Hydroxyapatite toothpaste

An increasingly popular use for NAHA is with oral health and tooth remineralization.

Because tooth enamel is composed of 90% calcium apatite, NAHA has naturally become a practical solution to tooth decay.

Acidic compounds - from food, drinks and the build-up of a bacteria - that are not cleaned out from the mouth can cause the protective outer shell of teeth (the enamel) to slowly corrode and break down.

Researchers have discovered that by adding NAHA to the corroded cracks in teeth is able to rebuild and revitalize the enamel.

It prevents further demineralization of the enamel, and will help fight off acidic bacteria that slowly build up in the mouth over time.

These nano crystals are bio mimetic, meaning that they mimic natural enamel, and begin to remineralize in as little as 10 minutes after application.

There are many toothpastes on the market that have added NAHA to their formulas, and many tooth gels have been developed and designed to specifically apply directly to teeth.

It can also help with tooth sensitivity, because as nano particles fill in the cracks of of the tooth enamel and close dentin tubules, which connect the outer enamel to the inner more sensitive nerves of the tooth.

How does calcium interact with hydroxyapatite?

The formulation of new bone tissue depends on several factors.

Osteoclasts are the cells that form new bones, while osteoblasts disintegrate old bone and re-distribute the minerals therein to other parts of the body.

As we age, osteoclasts’ new bone formation slows down, and so osteoblasts do more work in breaking down the minerals of bones.

We also need collagen, which is the material that the new bones use to connect the bone tissue together. Collagen formation also slows down as we age.

So in order to maintain a healthy balance of osteoclasts and osteoblasts activity we need to supply our bodies with specific nutrients, specifically more collagen and calcium.

Intake of nanohydroxyapatite, along with pure calcium, is a way to ensure that while osteoblasts are re-distributing old bone matter we can remineralize the new bone matter being created.

And since NAHA is a bio-available nano supplement, the body does not need to work to convert it into another mineral, thereby directly fortifying bone matter.

NAHA is also compatible with the muscles that are directly connected to the bones via ligaments.

This ensures that the muscular discomfort associated with deteriorating bone health can also be reduced.

Inflammation around the bone joints is another factor to consider, but NAHA is able to counteract this kind of inflammation and the onset of arthritis.

Hydroxyapatite vs Fluoride

Starting in the 1950s, the compound fluoride was added to the drinking water in many municipalities in the United States without public consent.

The reasoning was that fluoride was great for our dental health, but many skeptics became alarmed that the government was taking such a keen interest in their teeth.

Over time, the evidence began to mount that fluoride, in large doses, caused major corrosion of the teeth, called fluorosis, and also caused neurological damage when ingested over long periods of time.

With the discovery of bioavailable nanohydroxyapatite as a solution for tooth decay, the skeptics have continued to sound the alarm that there could be hidden dangers with its deployment in toothpastes.

This has been compounded because proponents of NAHA often do not criticize fluoride as a dangerous neurodegenerative compound.

Instead, they continue to claim fluoride can help strengthen teeth, contrary to a growing body of scientific evidence.

Adding these nano particulates to toothpastes merits caution because the addition of fluoride was not met with the same skepticism, and was later found to be very harmful to the human body.

The NAHA skeptics claim that while it is a naturally occurring component of the human body, it needs to be met with a rigorous risk analysis because of the nature of nano particles.

For example, in 2016 the European Commission Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety concluded, through animal testing, that NAHA can have significant side effects.

They pointed to evidence that in large doses it can damage the lungs, liver, kidneys, blood platelets, and DNA. This is because the nano compounds have sharp needle-shaped particles.

They concluded that the size of the particles is of great importance, and that nano particles can have unintended consequences to other parts of the body.

While NAHA has been show to effectively close cracks in the enamel and remineralize both the teeth and bones, more studies need to be performed to assess whether damage can be done to other parts of the body.

Some toothpaste companies advertise NAHA as “micro” instead of “nano”, which means the particles are larger and have a different structure that is not the same needle shape as the nano particles.

When NAHA hit the consumer market in the mid-2010s it was met with much fanfare as a replacement for fluoride.

But since it is still such a new phenomenon it should be met with caution considering the lack of caution during the roll out of fluoride in the 1950s.

So the question “What is hydroxyapatite?” yields many interesting responses, and does have the potential to resolve issues of tooth and bone decay. But science is based on skepticism, and so more research should be conducted to discover its safest and most reliable use.