Why I just spent $170 on a few tubes of toothpaste

By | January 11, 2014

20140112-223620.jpgIt is not commonly known that cavities in teeth can be healed. I figured it out ten years ago when I had ten cavities at one time. I haven’t had one since.

One of my secret weapons lately has been a formula that heals cavities with ionic minerals each time you brush. It was marketed under the name Novamin, but was perhaps one of those products that worked too well. The patent for Novamin was purchased by a large company, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), and all the good consumer products on the USA with Novamin were pulled from the market. Novamin was acquired by GlaxoSmithKline in May 2010 for $135 million. (http://www.gainesville.com/article/20100523/ARTICLES/5231002/1002)

What really irks me is the idea that a US dentist’s association may be paying them to sit in the formula. Why else would Sensodyne Repair and Protect have Novamin only in the EU, UK, Canada and India versions and while the US version does not contain Novamin?

Novamin is calcium sodium phosphosilicate, a bioactive glass with ionic forms of Calcium and Phosphorus that build strong teeth. You don’t need fluoride (a toxic superglue) to remineralize your teeth. Novamin will do the job safely. Burt’s Bees Fluoride-Free Whitening Toothpaste had calcium sodium phosphosilicate and that’s why I was using it. As a bonus it also had no SLS which may trigger those shallow white painful mouth sores.

J. Babin posting on Amazon says: The worst part of all this is that GSK, after buying NovaMin, seems to have “disrupted the supply chain” (as indicated on Burt’s Bees’ website) for all other manufacturers of NovaMin containing toothpaste, such as Burt’s Bees, Dr. Collins Restore, Oravive, etc. Is this a case of “if I can’t play, nobody can” or is it their plan to offer only high-priced, available only to dentists and by presctiption formulations in the U.S.? Leave it to GSK to screw consumers once again! SHAME ON YOU GSK! Did you really think no one would notice? You totally disrespect the consumer and I hope your strategy fails miserably.

Amazon has just a few tubes left and they are going for absurd prices as collectors items no longer made by the manufacturer.

I just found the following blog article which confirms some details:

In the last few weeks, GlaxoSmithKline finally (and relatively quietly) began the sale of its renowned Sensodyne Repair & Protect toothpaste in the United States, and if you think maybe I am going to write one of those good news/bad news stories, I am not. There is no good news here and I have scratched a bald spot in my wrinkled gray scalp over the past five days trying to make sense of GSK's decision.

There are a lot of international readers of this blog, so some background is necessary to avoid confusion for those who live outside North America. For years, GSK has sold a unique and remarkable toothpaste outside North America called Sensodyne Repair & Protect. Materials scientists, particularly those that work with advanced glass materials, took interest in this Sensodyne product because it contained a form of the 45S5 Bioglass invented by Larry Hench. As far as I know, it was the first broad-based consumer product that contained a bioactive ingredient that was designed to stimulate the body to rebuild dental tissue that, heretofore, was not rebuildable.

Repair & Protect was reported to be a godsend to people (including most adults) whose teeth have become annoyingly sensitive to heat and cold. Typically, the sensitivity occurs as one ages because some of the tooth enamel gets worn off over the years, which exposes the dentinal tubules that connect with the tooth nerves.

The 45S5 glass particles in Repair & Protect solve this by triggering an ionic reaction. When the glass particles contact saliva and water, the glass releases calcium and phosphate ions that form a calcium phosphate layer. The body then converts this to hydroxyapatite, which creates a physical barrier over the tubules much like the original enamel. Brush twice a day with Repair & Protect and after two weeks the heat/cold sensitivity disappears.

Just for the record, it wasn't a direct path from Hench's lab to the innovative toothpaste. Hench licensed his 45S5 to a US startup company, NovaMin, created by a group of dentists who saw the enormous potential for the glass in dental applications. GSK also saw the enormous potential and bought NovaMin for $135 million three years ago.

Quickly, GSK started bringing Repair & Protect to markets in Europe, Asia, Australia, and South America, to name a few. Anecdotally, the product seems to have been well received by consumers (despite being priced at a premium) and dental professionals. I have not read any definitive reports on sales, but according to a December 2011 story on the Consumer Goods Technology website, "As of September 2011, GlaxoSmithKline had sold 20 million units of Sensodyne Repair & Protect in more than 30 international markets." Not bad for a few months of sales.

And it got better. According to GSK's 2011 Annual Report, its Sensodyne Sensitivity & Acid Erosion business "grew 16%, driven by the launch of Sensodyne Repair & Protect… . Since its launch in February 2011, Sensodyne Repair & Protect has been available in 30 markets across Europe, Asia and the Middle East, with 20 additional launches planned for 2012. The Sensodyne franchise has registered double-digit growth for 11 consecutive quarters."

GSK's 2012 Annual Report (pdf) makes it sound like the toothpaste quickly became one of its cash cows:
"The Oral care category led growth at 8% versus market growth of approximately 4%. Sensodyne became the business's first 'billion-dollar brand' in 2012, boosted by the global roll-out of Sensodyne Repair & Protect and the launch of Sensodyne Repair & Protect Whitening and Extra Fresh."
But, one of the obvious omissions, marketwise, was that GSK wouldn't (or couldn't) sell Repair & Protect in the US marketplace. The reason? Over the years I have spoken with several glass experts at various ACerS meetings and the story they gave was nearly always the same: GSK couldn't get FDA approval. As recently as two months ago, I was told by someone involved with the product's development–but not the FDA process–whose understanding was that US sales was delayed because the regulatory agency was fine with the toothpaste composition, but uneasy with the term "repair." Regardless of the cause of the delay, you couldn't buy similar Repair & Protect in the US. Even online outlets, such as Amazon, refused to ship the product to the US.

So far, I have been unable to confirm the story about the FDA delays, and I don't know if there is any truth to it.

What I do know is true is that in the past three weeks, I suddenly starting hearing from friends and ACerS contacts that they either had seen Repair & Protect commercials on US networks or had seen an actual box of the product in US retail outlets. Great, I thought. No more having to sneak it into the US!

But, in fact, I still was a little skeptical because just a week or so ago, when he was receiving the Toledo Glass Award, Larry Hench stated something to the effect that Repair & Protect was unavailable in the US. Coincidentally, my colleague Eileen De Guire excitedly shot out an iPhone picture of a box of Repair & Protect that she just found in a drugstore in Michigan.

Weird, I thought. Then even my chiropractor on Monday mentioned to me that he had seen an ad for the toothpaste.

Curiosity fully piqued, I jumped online to look for GSK's press release about the start of Repair and Protect sales in the US. There wasn't one. I did look for the product on GSK's website and was eventually directed to the US Sensodyne website. Indeed, the main story proclaimed, "Now a Sensodyne toothpaste that can actually repair sensitive teeth." A-ha! It is true.

But… there was also button to click on to "Learn more about Repair & Protect." I clicked hoping to read carefully composed marketing copy about the benefits of the NovaMin/45S5 glass particles in Repair & Protect like that on the UK Sensodyne website.

Boy, was I disappointed. Instead of a discussion of NovaMin, the webpage discusses the benefits of stannous fluoride. Stannous fluoride! The webpage also has video from a dentist whose chopped up testimonial has him saying, "I'm always open to new advances…" Now, if you are old enough to remember the old "Crest with Fluoristan" commercials, you know that there is nothing "advanced" about stannous fluoride.

I was certain there was a mistake. I was so certain there was a mistake that I went out to my local CVS to buy a tube so I could read the ingredients myself. Sure enough, the only active ingredient is "stannous fluoride 0.454%."

I should have been tipped off by the relatively quiet start of the sales of Repair & Protect in the US. Yes, GSK/Sensodyne is running TV ads in the US, but it defies logic that a major consumer product company rolls out a "billion-dollar" brand in a huge market without 1) a press release and press push, 2) social media promotions ($1 off coupon campaigns don't count), 3) an education campaign aimed at dentists, and 4) some nearly-over-the-top promotional events. But, that is what it appears GSK is doing.

I twice requested an interview with a GSK representative to explain why GSK switched the formulation for the US version of Repair & Protect and why there was such a lackluster product rollout. GSK refused to provide an interview opportunity. Instead, I had to settle for an insipid exchange of emails with GSK's media contact for North America consumer products, Deborah Bolding.

Bolding wrote to me, "Sensodyne Repair and Protect is a new product here in the US and does not contain NovaMin. The FDA approved the formulation. We work with regulatory authorities in each market on formulations for the specific product to be marketed and sold in that specific market. There are variances by market depending on the local regulatory body and other factors."

When I asked for examples of other markets where Repair & Protect doesn't contain 45S5/NovaMin, she didn't respond other than to write, "As mentioned earlier, formulations vary by market because each market has its own regulatory authorities."

When I requested that Bolding supply me contact information of the dentist featured in the testimonial video, Bolding responded, "I am pleased that I could address a number of your questions regarding Sensodyne Repair & Protect here in the US. Unfortunately, further comment will not be available on our strategy, rationale and future plans."

So, advanced materials aficionados, I am sorry to conclude that if you want to buy Sensodyne Repair & Protect in the US, save your money and buy some Crest. If you want "real" Repair & Protect, you are still going to have to go abroad to buy it.

I am confident the story eventually will emerge about why GSK would invest $135 million in a US startup (NovaMin), but not leverage the technology to create a powerful product in the startup's home nation–all at the risk of diluting and potentially damaging the Repair & Protect brand reputation outside the US. GSK is a publicly traded company, and maybe analysts and stockholders should start asking.


When I called Burt’s Bees and asked why they stopped making their toothpaste they cited low sales and difficulty obtaining some ingredients.

Stay tuned… Or better yet, do some digging of your own to figure out exactly who is responsible for this “profit over public health” decision.

Meanwhile , here’s another exciting idea that works to heal deep cavities with a peptide hydrogel. How long will this one last?


UK scientists at Bristol University and the University of Leeds Dental Institute have developed gels which can regenerate decayed or damaged tooth enamel. A peptide hydrogel is applied to the tooth. This forms into a protein scaffold onto which new enamel-forming calcium is deposited from the saliva. The scientists claim to have seen “highly significant” levels of repair in which signs of decay have been reversed months after a single application of the compound.[33][34]

This is from the Journal of Dental Research:

Self-assembling Peptide Scaffolds Promote Enamel Remineralization


Rationally designed β-sheet-forming peptides that spontaneously form three-dimensional fibrillar scaffolds in response to specific environmental triggers may potentially be used in skeletal tissue engineering, including the treatment/prevention of dental caries, via bioactive surface groups. We hypothesized that infiltration of caries lesions with monomeric low-viscosity peptide solutions would be followed by in situ polymerization triggered by conditions of pH and ionic strength, providing a biomimetic scaffold capable of hydroxyapatite nucleation, promoting repair. Our aim was to determine the effect of an anionic peptide applied to caries-like lesions in human dental enamel under simulated intra-oral conditions of pH cycling. Peptide treatment significantly increased net mineral gain by the lesions, due to both increased remineralization and inhibition of demineralization over a five-day period. The assembled peptide was also capable of inducing hydroxyapatite nucleation de novo. The results suggest that self-assembling peptides may be useful in the modulation of mineral behavior during in situ dental tissue engineering.


26 thoughts on “Why I just spent $170 on a few tubes of toothpaste

  1. KevinSwiecicki

    This is an OUTRAGE and I will spread the word of this EVERYWHERE I can! Thank God, I live near canada. I’m probably going to plan a trip in there soon for the sole reason of buying as much as I can(before there greed spreads there too).

  2. donjoe

    Like so many other North-Americans, you are gravely misinformed about fluoride due to environmentalist propaganda that has nothing to do with the medical facts. (This is similar to the way many Europeans have come to oppose any and all use of GMOs in the food industry just based on environmentalist alarmism with no backing in actual scientific studies.)

    Fluoride does promote tooth remineralization and it has the best track record of any substance used for this purpose, as long it’s used in the right concentrations (0.5-1.5 ppm in water and 1000-1450 ppm in toothpastes, which you should avoid swallowing).

    Fun fact: the Sensodyne Repair & Protect (with Novamin) you’re crying about, that I can buy here in Europe, _also_ contains fluoride in the form of sodium monofluorophosphate, for a fluoride concentration of – big surprise – 1450 ppm.

  3. Ricardo DaSilva

    Interesting posting, but your information is not accurate or complete. Your initial paragraph “It is not commonly known that cavities in teeth can be healed. I figured it out ten years ago when I had ten cavities at one time. I haven‚Äôt had one since.” Is only partially true.
    Although early caries (the ones that are not yet cavitated) can be reversed, whenever the lesion reaches dentin it is recommended that the tooth be restored to avoid expansion of the cavity and more serious problems. I also hope that you haven’t diagnosed that you don’t have cavities yourself, and that you received that advice from a good dentist.

  4. Sam

    I don’t think you should blame GSK for their mealy mouthed response to you. The regulatory agencies can cut their throats at any time and they just don’t want to piss them off.

  5. Catherine

    Do you know anything about this toothpaste which can be purchased on Ebay? — GlaxoSmithKline GSK SHUMITECT PRO Enamel Toothpaste 90g— Does it contain NovaMin?

    I’ve been using —SANGI APAGARD Royal Toothpaste 135g– made in Japan and I think it contains something like Novamin but can’t find much info on it as everything is in Japanese. I get it on Ebay. it’s expensive but I think it’s been working based on what the dentist tells me.

    I’m looking for something less expensive without flouride which can remineralize. Thanks.

      1. jaime

        Catherine, (and mmm dime000) One friend of mine can tell you about a product like you want. but how can he contact you? He does not like to post on INternet sites, but if you post your email here, he may email you. the info-

    1. Carlos

      One friend knows some but he is not sure if the toothpaste can be sent by mail to USA and in quantity. carlomenk at gmail.com

  6. Xeno Post author

    WordPress doesn’t let me edit this post on my iphone. The phrase “sitting in” should be “sitting on”. As in I think GSK is purposefully not using or is using an ineffective amount of Novamin in their US products.

    As to healing cavities that have progressed into the dentin, could someone who is convinced of that explain why ionic phosphorus and calcium bind to enamel and remineralize that surface but will not bind to dentin? What evidence supports the claim that dentin can’t be healed?

    1. Olivia

      I believe the MSH peptid gel has actually rebuilt teeth in lab rats, but I would have to go back and read the complete results from the testing in France back in 2010.

  7. mmm (@dimedime000)

    They have lots of tubes on Ebay with Novamin from other countries of course…Thanks so much for this info i just found out that i have severe demineralization and all my dentist could say is more fluoride? I am going to give this solution a try~

    1. Karlos

      Can the products from other countries enter USA easiy by mail or they need to get a permission of FDA?

  8. Olivia

    I am happy that I was able to find this on amazon from a .uk seller. I wish I could find some of the gel, but until then I will use the sensodyne and an ionic toothbrush.

  9. The One


    While your question matters to adults, if children who are just getting their adult teeth were using novamin from the beginning, it would never progress to that stage. Much loss for those poor dentists, whatever happened to for the children?

  10. Bill Dent

    Like someone said, you are gravely misinformed about fluoride. While I agree that ingestion of it is not healthy and not proven to do anything, but is harmful, it’s use in toothpaste is warranted. Especially with Hydroxyapatite. What you fail to realize is the actual Science of how Fluoride HELPS hydroxyapatite get into teeth better. It’s proven Science. This is how your saliva actually works. Fluoride is produced in your body for teeth and calcium. So these toothpastes mimic the benefits of saliva. Calling fluoride “toxic superglue” is totally misleading and unscientific, in terms of teeth. That’s not how it works.

    1. Xeno Post author

      Hi Bill. By actual proven science, fluorine is the most electronegative and reactive of all elements on the periodic table. It is thus like a molecular superglue. Because it is so reactive, it is also highly toxic.

      If you like it in your toothpaste because you want it in your teeth, go ahead, but it isn’t needed. Yes, it will bind during enamel formation causing tighter crystals, making teeth less susceptible to acid, but too much will make your teeth brittle, it will weaken them. The body does not “produce” fluoride. Fluorine anions, F-, react with many things they encounter in the body. Think about it. If F- substitutes for hydrogen in organic compounds you’d have all kinds of crazy new compounds messing up normal reactions in the body. This is the rational basis for fluoride involvement in endocrine disruption, immune system problems and so on. Normally, saliva bathing teeth with ionic calcium and phosphorus leads to remineralization which protects teeth from cavities. This does not require fluoride. Add Fluoride and at the right concentration you get different enamel, but the resulting material is not hydroxyapatite, it is fluoroapatite. Fluoroapatite is mildly bacteriostatic. As it can effect Streptococcus mutans counts at tooth surfaces, it is obviously able to interfere with local biological processes. Carbonated calcium-deficient hydroxylapatite is the main mineral of which dental enamel and dentin are composed.

      You can have a stronger car by replacing your current glass windows with titanium. You want a stronger car, don’t you?

      1. donjoe0

        “Fluorine anions, F-, react with many things they encounter in the body.”

        What does that have to do with toothpaste fluoride? Where are the longitudinal studies showing significant health damage from these evil evil fluorine anions in the quantities we get from toothpaste use?

        “You can have a stronger car by replacing your current glass windows with titanium. You want a stronger car, don‚Äôt you?”

        False analogy. This is the kind of “car” modern people regularly drive through “dense forests” that will break its “windows” sooner rather than later. And yes, in this context I do prefer “titanium” “windows”.

        How about you settle this dispute and explain how you can bash fluoride-containing toothpastes and at the same time recommend Sensodyne Repair & Protect, which also contains fluoride in the same concentration as most other toothpastes?

        1. Xeno Post author

          It is good to have someone actively debating and looking at the real details. Thank you. I don’t recommend any toothpaste with fluoride at this time, for the reasons I stated. I personally won’t trade stronger teeth for the problems that result. I’ve avoided toothpastes with fluoride and have been cavity free for years since I made that change. Correlation only, but that’s my experience. I do recommend toothpaste with Novamin without fluoride, but it is very hard to find that in the USA now thanks to GSK. Nano hydroxyapatite also seems to remineralize teeth very well. Selection bias, lobbying and weirdly, even national security have influenced the published literature on fluoride. I’ve spoken directly to university researchers who told me that publishing certain things is career suicide because funding is now so much industry backed.
          Yes, it wasn’t the greatest analogy, but too much hardness from too much fluoride gives you brittle teeth in the form of fluorosis. This can make people’s teeth fall out.


          In that case, they have zero cavities to deal with in those teeth. Problem solved. I’ll hunt for the endocrine disruption studies I’ve read if you like.
          PS. I’ll have carbyne windows then.

      2. donjoe0

        From what I can find so far, fluorosis:
        1. is not much more than a cosmetic annoyance for most sufferers
        2. does not come with weaker teeth but with increased cavity resistance
        3. is caused by fluoride ingestion, not brushing with a fluoridated toothpaste per se.
        So you can just put more effort into teaching kids (who are most affected by this) to never swallow the toothpaste and the problem goes away.

        1. Xeno Post author

          1. Fluorosis has killed and maimed some people at high doses, but even at lower levels, there is enough research that makes me not want to touch it.
          2. Pitting of teeth due to dental fluorosis weakens them overall, as there is less tooth material when pits form. No cavities but corroding teeth? No thanks.
          3. The F- doesn’t care if you brush it on, breathe it in, or drink it. It is the amount and location, not the method of acquiring it that matters.
          4. Teach kids to get rid of the streptococcus mutans bacteria, to eat less sugar and to avoid fluoride and the problem goes away, plus they have fewer health problems. That’s my take on it.

      3. donjoe0

        “The F- doesn‚Äôt care if you brush it on, breathe it in, or drink it. It is the amount and location, not the method of acquiring it that matters.”

        I’m sorry, but this can’t be the way someone talks when they’re the least bit familiar with biochemistry. The method of delivery can make or break a “poison”, as some routes of administration allow a lot of substance to be absorbed quickly while others allow very little or none at all. As the one going against the prevailing wisdom it falls to you to present convincing evidence of your allegations of harm from a widely used substance that isn’t leaving any obvious trail of death and destruction in its wake. 🙂

        1. Xeno Post author

          While criticizing my wording, it appears you just agreed with me that the amount and location is what matters. Anyway, let’s get down to it. If you think it is harmless, take my challenge: you eat 1/4 tube of your fluoride toothpaste and I’ll eat 1/4 tube of my non-fluoride toothpaste. Now if you think that would be a really bad idea for you, what data would you have to convince me that it is safe to brush three times a day with stuff you are afraid to eat? Sure, the dose is the poison, but do you really know how much NaF is absorbed from 3 minutes of brushing with 1 gram of fluoride toothpaste? At what rate is it eliminated from the body? Did you look at and dismiss the research on cancer, neurotoxicity, and endocrine disruption? You may be ahead of me in understanding all of this, but as far as I can tell, using fluoride as medicine is a historical fad that will eventually be seen as a clearly bad idea.

  11. Xeno Post author

    To answer your first question, Fluoride exists as a negative ion (F-)(anion) that can combine with a positive ion (cation) to form stable compounds. Sodium fluoride (NaF) is the most common source of fluoride in toothpaste. The bonds between the F- and other elements in fluoride compounds break and reform dynamically depending on local conditions, like being in water. Produced in salivary glands, human saliva is 99.5% water. In water, NaF is moderately soluble and releases F- in this reaction: NaF (diluted) + 4H2O = [Na(H2O)4]+ + F-
    So, the fluorine anion is freed and can participate in many reactions such as becoming part of the tooth enamel. Notice that fluoroapatite (Ca5(PO4)3F) has no sodium (Na). The bonds holding fluoride in teeth can be broken if stronger attractive forces are presented. For example, silicon may pull the F- out if it has a stronger pull than those bonds holding F- in the fluoroapatite.
    Let me know if you see any flaws in these statements.

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