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Miami Center for Cosmetic and Implant Dentistry
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The Bone and Tooth Mineral: Hydroxylapatite

Hydroxylapatite is the main phosphate mineral that makes up teeth and bones. Hydroxylapatite may also be called hydroxyapatite, and the two terms are interchangeable. The three minerals that comprise hydroylapatatite are calcium, phosphate, and hydroxide. Because of its properties, hydroxylapatite has several medicinal purposes, both with bones and with teeth.

  • Mineralization of Bones and Teeth: This report explains the process whereby bones and teeth mineralize.
  • Overview of Bones: Explore this Web page to learn the materials contained in bone, including hydroxylapatite.
  • Calcium Overview: The University of Utah presents an overview of calcium, explaining that calcium hydroxylapatite is the predominant type of mineral in the body.

A person with osteoporosis experiences bone loss over time. As bones become less dense, they become weaker, and weak bones often lead to fractures. Physicians are exploring the possibility of using hydroxylapatite for procedures such as hip replacements. Hydroxylapatite can also be used with amputations to improve the bond between natural bone and artificial prostheses.

Bacteria on teeth can cause dental cavities despite the hardness of tooth enamel. When cavities cause holes in teeth, it’s necessary to repair the holes by filling them in with a synthetic compound such as amalgam, ceramic, or metal alloys. Although this process repairs the initial cavity, additional decay often occurs in the areas where the natural tooth surface touches the synthetic material. The filling materials do not adhere perfectly to enamel, and these materials are not as strong as the natural properties of teeth. Natural enamel is a complex material, and it’s not possible to replicate it precisely with synthetic materials. Research has shown that using filling materials that contain hydroxylapatite can reduce the incidence of subsequent decay around fillings. This is because the elements contained in hydroxylapatite are similar to natural enamel, making it possible for the two materials to bond more securely. Over time, hydroxylapatite on tooth enamel seems to remain strong, which maintains the integrity of the filling over a longer period of time.

Dental implants are another area where hydroxylapatite may produce better outcomes in the long term. After the procedure to insert the dental implant in place in the gum, the implant needs to bond with the existing bone. Using an implant coated with hydroxylapatite may improve the bonding between the implant and the bone because the hydroxylapatite improves the healing process and facilitates better adhesion and bonding.

Scientists are exploring hydroxylapatite in attempts to replicate dentin, which is the material that lies beneath the enamel layer of teeth. While dentin contains hydroxylapatite, it also contains collagen, comprised of living cells. These structural differences are significant because they affect how dentin reacts and responds to dental issues over time.

  • Acids, Bases, and Tooth Decay: This report explains how acidity leads to tooth decay and neutralization can reverse tooth decay.

Another potential benefit of studying hydroxylapatite involves testing people for radiation exposure. The hydroxylapatite contained within teeth creates and contains a free radical when exposed to radiation. A group of researchers are exploring the possibility of creating a hand-held instrument that would detect radiation exposure by passing it over someone’s jaw. This ability could help in triage care for military personnel and for people involved in terrorist attacks or radiation accidents.

  • Bon (Hydroxyl)apatite: Read the explanation of hydroxylapatite on this Web page to learn why teeth are harder than bones.
  • The Skeletal System: Bone Tissue: This report provides an overview of bones, including formation, anatomy, and histology.

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