New toothpaste substitutes cocoa extract for fluoride

By: Rabia Mughal

A New Orleans start-up has developed a toothpaste that uses a naturally occurring compound found in cocoa instead of fluoride to help strengthen teeth. Theodent relies on Rennou, a proprietary blend of a cocoa extract and other minerals that work together to strengthen teeth. The extract is a white crystalline powder with a chemical makeup similar to caffeine, according to Arman Sadeghpour, PhD, Theodent president and CEO.

“Theodent is more effective at strengthening enamel than fluoride,” he said in an interview with “More and more people are shying away from fluoride due to concerns about toxicity.” Theodent Classic ($9.99) hit store shelves at Whole Foods Markets last week. Theodent 300, an extra-strength and luxury version ($99.99) for supersensitive teeth, will be marketed to select cosmetic dentists and medical professionals, according to the company.

Rennou was discovered by Tetsuo Nakamoto DDS, PhD, chief scientific officer and chairman of the board at Theodent, while researching the effect of caffeine on teeth at the Louisiana State University (LSU) School of Dentistry. Dr. Nakamoto collaborated with two experts in analytical geology from the University of New Orleans, and together they discovered Rennou’s effects on teeth and enamel. How it works Enamel is made up hundreds of thousands of calcium and phosphorus unit crystals that form the mineral component of enamel, hydroxyapatite. Through a series of laboratory tests, Dr. Nakamoto’s team identified that Rennou increases the size of the surface unit crystals of enamel by four times. Larger unit crystals make teeth less susceptible to bacterial acid demineralization. Sadeghpour joined this scientific team and completed his doctoral thesis at Tulane University by comparing Rennou head to head with fluoride and confirmed that it was more effective than fluoride at strengthening teeth.

He used a neural network analysis model to study the effect of Rennou versus fluoride on the enamel surface of human teeth. Two experiments were performed for the study: the first examining enamel surface microhardness, followed by an acid dissolution study. Through this research, Sadeghpour found that human teeth treated with varying doses of Rennou were generally stronger than those treated with fluoride and also more resilient to bacterial acid demineralization. His research became the foundation of taking this discovery and turning it into a product.

After Sadeghpour finished his doctoral thesis, Tulane University did a small press release on the findings. He then received a call from Clifton Carey, PhD, director of independent research at the

“Theodent is the culmination of 30 years of research, and its effectiveness has been verified by two issued U.S. patents and a third worldwide patent pending,”

ADA, who then independently studied Rennou. In his research, Carey took initial radiographs of teeth before placing them in distilled water, fluoride, or Rennou for two minutes, Sadeghpour explained. He then subjected these teeth to an acid attack (1% citric acid at a pH of 3.9) for 10 minutes and measured how many

microns of enamel were lost. Carey found that the tooth in distilled water lost 8.88 microns, the one in fluoride lost 5.47 microns, and Rennou beat both fluoride and control group with 3.12 microns of erosion.

That in itself was interesting, according to Sadeghpour. But he also was intrigued that the concentration of Rennou used in the study was very small -- 142 times less -- compared with the concentration of fluoride. Rennou had almost twice (1.75 times to be exact) the protective effect of fluoride.

30 Years Of Research

Rennou has also been studied by researchers from Tulane University, the University of New Orleans, Marmara University Dental School in Turkey, the University of Groningen’s Faculty of Medical Sciences Department of Dentistry and Dental Hygiene in the Netherlands, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and the ADA. “Theodent is the culmination of 30 years of research, and its effectiveness has been verified by two issued U.S. patents and a third worldwide patent pending,” Sadeghpour said. Theodent has a minty taste, is nontoxic, and safe for adults and children of all ages, according to the company. The developers hope to expand the product line to include dental floss, mouthwash, and a chocolate-flavored, sugar-free toothpaste for children.

It is now commercially available in 20 U.S. states -- Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin -- as well as in Canada in Ontario and British Columbia.

At a January 4 press conference announcing Theodent, Henry Gremillion, DDS, dean of the dental school at LSU, called the new toothpaste a “major step forward in oral health maintenance and prevention.”

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