I heard of Bite about a year and a half ago, when I was first honing in on creating a zero-waste lifestyle. At the time I was starting to partner with companies such asPlaine Products and Bogobrush. I was intrigued to hear of a toothpaste company that was making a paste-less toothpaste. As the name implies, Bite sells toothpaste tabs that you simple chew. My first thought was, “Huh.”
What is Toothpaste?
Toothpaste (as we know it) was first invented by one of the nation’s most famous advertising executives in the early 1900’s who understood that for a product to sell, it had to be effective in creating a habit around said product. He was a very smart man who realized that it would be more successful to sell the feeling of fresh breath rather than the health benefits of brushing teeth. If he could get people to continually crave that minty fresh feeling, then he could get them to continually brush. If they create a habit of brushing their teeth, they will continually buy the product. The addition of a sudsy sensation convinced people that their mouths are actually clean when they use toothpaste.
What if I told you that the paste doesn’t do much to clean your mouth? Rather, it is the brushing techniques that one employs that really removes the plaque and debris from your teeth. It wasn’t until later that fluoride was added to toothpaste. However, fluoride also does not clean so much as strengthen the enamel. If it wasn’t for the fluoride, I would say that toothpaste has no benefit other than creating the mirage that you have a clean oral cavity.
Things to Know About Fluoride
There are a few facts that we need to get straight regarding fluoride.
- It has been proven to strengthen enamel.
- It has been proven to reduce caries (which causes cavities).
- It has been proven to be especially effective in improving the oral health of low income communities when it’s added to their water systems.
- When ingested in high quantities, it has been proven to be highly toxic. (Any parent of any child who has ever accidentally swallowed fluoride can attest to this. At the dental office, they vomit before they even get to the door).
- Some people can get behind fluoride use, others cannot get past the toxic properties.
Knowing that final point, I think that it would be wrong of me as a dentist to promote only fluoride toothpaste. It is important to make the habit of oral hygiene inclusive to different populations with different belief systems. Therefore, we must have alternatives to fluoride. Enter nanohydroxyapatite.
Nanohydroxyapatite is a long name that describes a man-made calcium crystal. It is bio-mimetic, meaning it imitates a naturally occurring component of our bodies called hydroxyapatite. Hydroxyapatite makes up 60-70% of bone and 90% of enamel, the outer protective layer of teeth. Nano-hydroxyapatite are essentially very small crystals that replace missing sections of minerals that have dissolved out of enamel or bone, thereby fortifying both.
It is widely known that bone and enamel are made of calcium, but did you know that free calcium is not something your body can use? Nanohydroxyapatite, however, is readily bioavailable, without any additional processing required. There are multiple studies that repeatedly show the potential that nanohydroxyapatite has in improving both dental materials (when combined with glass ionomers it greatly increases the resistance strength against biting and chewing forces) and tooth minerals.
The most exciting thing is that it has been shown to be more effective than traditional fluoride treatments, remineralizing enamel surface in as little as 10 minutes. Gel that contains this crystal also reduces sensitivity after a session of teeth whitening. Even early lesions which signify the start of tooth decay can be treated with daily use of nanohydroxyapatite. Its ability to stimulate bone growth due to its direct effect on osteoblasts explains why nanoHA is widely used in oral surgery, periodontology and implantology. Lastly, it does not induce toxicity or inflammation within our bodies.
Why Bite’s Got It Right
Which brings me full circle to my original point. Bite’s got it right. Bite toothpaste recently launched a new summer flavor, Watermelon Hibiscus, that contains nanohydroxyapatite instead of fluoride. It also contains xylitol, which is a sugar substitute for sweeteners that I recommend to all my gum-lovers out there. The tabs come packaged in a glass bottle rather than a plastic tube, making it zero-waste. (They also have wooden toothbrushes that are vegan-free. cruelty-free, and extremely light – perfect for a biodegradable option when backpacking through the woods this summer.) Each bottle contains 62 tabs, which would last one month if you brush every morning after breakfast and every evening before bed.
Now, it doesn’t work like the toothpaste that you grew up with. When I first tried Bite, I did in fact think to myself, “Huh.” You take a tab and bite into it. My first thought was to swallow it like candy (perhaps it was the watermelon flavor that threw me off. I’m sure the mint flavor would be a bit different). For obvious reasons, you aren’t supposed to swallow it. Instead, you take a wet toothbrush and start brushing. The chewed up tabs dissolve, although you can’t expect the same sudsy sensation as traditional toothpaste. After brushing, you spit out the contents like you would with toothpaste. You may be surprised to find solid pieces of the tab still left, which is nothing to worry about. I have found that no matter how long I brush, not all of it dissolves. A trick is to chew it very well because the smaller pieces have an easier time breaking down once brushing.
I know this all sounds weird. A dentist not forcing fluoride treatment. A toothpaste company that’s zero-waste. Tooth brushing without suds and minty freshness. Unfortunately, the man who first invented toothpaste, his name was Claude C Hopkins by the way, has got one thing straight. Pepsodent, his invention, created the fresh feeling and suds which revolutionized America’s relationship with tooth brushing. Prior to the early 1900’s Americans did not brush their teeth. Afterwards, they don’t feel clean without mint’s tingly sensation. And all I’ve got to compete with that are boring facts.
But you know what? Bite may be on the verge of something here.
If we can dissociate Americans from that nostalgic, socially-learned feeling long enough for them to understand a few things (such as brushing technique reigns supreme), maybe we can turn away from decades of sodium laurel-sulfate use towards zero-waste planet-loving, non-toxic body-protecting products that are good for both the environment and our health. Isn’t that what we are moving towards these days?
All I’ve got to say is, try it. With an open mind. Understand why it is that you are so tied to traditional toothpaste. Who knows? You may like it.
This post was sponsored by Bite. The information regarding Claude C Hopkins was from “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. To learn more about nanohydroxyapatite, you may find Ann Stomatol’s literature review published in 2014 a good read. All thoughts and opinions are my own.