Dr. Al Danenberg ● Nutritional Periodontist
June 15, 2020
Beware of nanoparticles. The story being promoted is that nanoparticles (NPs) are a healthy breakthrough in medicine. Some of this is true; some of this is false. In fact, current medical studies are revealing that NPs may pose a health hazard. I’m going to dig into some of the “weeds” of this miscommunication.
Formulations of nanoparticles are in many products we use – toothpastes, supplements, antimicrobials, etc. They are touted to kill harmful bacteria, repair tissues, promote health, and a whole lot more. While there are positive effects that have been documented, the negatives in my opinion outweigh the reported benefits. In reality, nanoparticles might be a major irritant to human cells, eventually leading to cellular toxicity and the manifestation of many chronic diseases down the road.
On June 1, 2020, an in-depth article was published in Particle and Fibre Toxicology about the potential damage that ingested nanoparticles could have on the gut microbiome and the human immune system. I’ve talked about the immune system and its relationship with the gut in my recent Blog about my cancer recovery.
I’m going to describe the pertinent points I believe everyone should understand and consider before using products that include nanoparticles as part of the products’ ingredients. You may want to read the entire article to absorb the deeper science that it mentions. To me, the conclusions are concerning and alarming. I also will discuss some of the products that are related to dental care and the treatment of dental diseases.
Understandably, I’m going to step on a lot of toes with this article. Many companies are not going to agree with my cautionary remarks because these businesses market nanoparticle products. Many salespeople are not going to agree with me because they promote these products to dentists and the general public. And many dentists are not going to accept my warnings because they recommend dental products to their patients that contain large amounts of nanoparticles.
What are Nanoparticles
Nanoparticles are chemical substances which are very tiny, ranging in sizes between 1 nm (nanometer) and 100 nm. Three examples of nanoparticles in products used in dentistry are titanium dioxide (TiO2), silver (Ag), and hydroxyapatite (HAP). These minute particles have the ability to easily penetrate cell membranes, thereby initiating potential toxic reactions within the cell that could cause ultimate harm.
Nanoparticles Cause Damage
Specifically, NPs can cause toxicity in human cells in various ways. They may…
- Perforate and damage cell membranes
- Cause free radicals to form
- Prevent normal cell division
- Damage DNA
- Weaken mitochondria
- Interfere with normal cellular function
- Prevent nutrients from moving into cells and waste products from moving out of cells
- Activate inflammation within the cell
Following ingestion of nanoparticles, they interact with the gut. Some of these particles are immediately absorbed into cells, creating the damage I described above. Some are not absorbed and accumulate in the intestinal lumen. They then interact with the intestinal garden of bacteria as well as the mucus layer lining the epithelial barrier surface. They can alter the healthy ratio of good bacteria and increase the prevalence of potentially harmful bacteria. All this can create gut dysbiosis and inflammation that leaks into the blood stream.
In addition, a few of the NPs will pass through the gut epithelial barrier and overwork the intestinal immune cells (e.g., macrophages and dendritic cells). Ultimately, these NPs will enter the systemic circulation and play havoc throughout the body. In many articles in the past, I described the importance of a balance of healthy gut bacteria, a healthy mucus layer, an intact gut epithelial barrier, and an effective immune system. Apparently, NPs can damage all these elements of wellness and jeopardize the healthy function of other organ systems. And most of this medical science is ignored and not reported by the companies that manufacture products made with NPs.
Silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) are extensively used in “colloidal silver” concoctions for their antibacterial properties in a diverse set of applications in the mouth and systemically. Healthy mitochondria are a target of AgNP toxicity. Mitochondria are like the batteries of human cells. When the mitochondria are damaged, the cell is affected negatively because it has reduced power to do what it needs to do.
An important fact is that AgNPs are able to cross the blood-brain barrier and cause damage in the brain. AgNPs exposure can damage the hippocampal dependent memory center in the brain and provoke memory loss. A study revealed significant impairment of long-term and short-term memory from AgNPs ingestion.
Titanium Dioxide Nanoparticles
Titanium dioxide nanoparticles (TiO2 NPs) are used in commercial toothpastes to make then bright white. Apparently, consumers prefer a “bright white” toothpaste over any other color or shade. However, various studies have shown that TiO2 NPs are able to penetrate into gum tissues and have toxic reactions within cells in the mouth, brain tissues, and nerve tissues. They also may be carcinogenic.,
Many toothpaste companies have become aware of the potential harmful systemic effects of fluoride. To replace fluoride and enhance remineralization of tooth surfaces, hydroxyapatite has become a unique ingredient in toothpaste formulas. Hydroxyapatite is the main inorganic constituent of tooth enamel. Unfortunately, when the size of hydroxyapatite is reduced to nanoparticles, they have been shown to be toxic in many types of cells in the human body.,,
While various scientific papers have demonstrated medical and cosmetic benefits of various forms of nanoparticle products, the overwhelming fact is that these particles have been shown to be toxic in the human body. Even if toxicity could be reduced through sophisticated production techniques, there still would be the overriding potential for damage to cellular function.
I don’t want to take that risk in my body. You may or may not agree with me. However, the solution is obvious for me. I personally won’t use products that are made with nanoparticle technology.
I give my patients the information I have and encourage them to do their research and make their decision. I believe the risk is too great. To be clear, there are alternatives for products made with nanoparticles.
One side note is that the Internet is an excellent source of information. Unfortunately, it is loaded with false information disguised as science. Investigate on your own to confirm everything you read on the Internet. That includes everything you read that I write. I’m not above scrutiny. So, make sure I am providing you with valuable and peer-reviewed science that is confirmed by various sources. References must be reliable to be believed.