Kelsey O’Hagan-Wong, Joachim Enax and Frederic Meyer

U of T researchers show effectiveness of fluoride-free hydroxyapatite toothpaste

By Rachel Boutet

A recent journal article published by researchers at the Faculty of Dentistry shows new fluoride-free toothpastes with hydroxyapatite can provide equivalent protection to those containing fluoride.

Kelsey O’Hagan-Wong 1T8, second-year pediatric dentistry resident, was the first author of the review paper, working closely with professor Bernhard Ganss, vice-dean research, and two scientists, Dr. Joachim Enax and Dr. Frederic Meyer, based in Germany. 

O’Hagan-Wong reviewed recent findings of research investigating the efficacy of fluoride-free hydroxyapatite toothpastes on re-mineralizing and therefore repairing teeth. Typically, fluoride is used in the prevention of dental caries, but due to the decreased acceptance among the public and the risk of fluorosis in children, there is the need for effective alternatives. Hydroxyapatite is the main mineral of human tooth enamel and can be used in toothpastes as a biomimetic active ingredient.

“Fluoridated toothpaste is often a concern for very young kids who are more likely to swallow it,” says O’Hagan-Wong. “The problem is kids are getting cavities, so there needs to be an alternate solution.”

O’Hagan-Wong’s research found that hydroxyapatite toothpastes appear to demonstrate either its superiority or equivalency to fluoride toothpaste as anti-caries agents. Hydroxyapatite products can be considered as an alternative in young children where fluorosis is a concern. The challenge, she says, is these toothpastes are often expensive, difficult to obtain and not well-known.

“Although this toothpaste has been on the market for a while, most people are unaware of it,” she says. “Hopefully with more knowledge, it can be used to prevent cavities.”

O’Hagan-Wong believes more can be added to fluoride-free toothpastes to further improve and protect teeth. Her master’s is looking at adding a special protein to hydroxyapatite toothpaste that can help rebuild the tooth and prevent further decay. 

Her research has already received an Ontario Society of Preventive Dentistry-Public Health Research Fellowship award, an award given out by the Faculty that supports graduate students further research in the areas of preventive dentistry and public health. 

Photo: Kelsey O’Hagan-Wong (KE Images), Joachim Enax and Frederic Meyer