Japanese researchers are working on a microscopically thin film that be placed over teeth to help prevent tooth decay, make them appear whiter and help those with sensitive teeth. The “tooth patch” as it has been dubbed, is made from hydroxyapatite – which is the main mineral in tooth enamel. The hydroxyapatite is used to create a hard-wearing, extra-flexible patch that can be placed over teeth to protect them from damage.
Shigeki Hontsu, a professor at Kinki University’s Faculty of Biology-Orientated Science and Technology said: “This is the world’s first flexible apatite sheet, which we hope to use to protect teeth or repair damaged enamel…Dentists used to think an all-apatite sheet was just a dream, but we are aiming to create artificial enamel.”
The tooth patch is being jointly developed with the Kinki University team and Kazushi Yoshikawa, an associate professor at the Osaka Dental University.
Researchers fired lasers at compressed blocks of hydroxyapatite in a vacuum which makes individual particles pop out meaning they could be used to create a protective film just 0.004mm thick! The protective film has miniscule holes that allow liquid and air to escape to stop the formation of bubbles when it is applied to a tooth.
Hontsu said that the moment the film was put upon the surface of a tooth it became almost invisible and incredibly difficult to see with the naked eye. The film is transparent, but researchers claim that it can easily be tainted, to be used in cosmetic dentistry for people who want their teeth to appear whiter.
One minor drawback with the tooth patch however, is that it takes almost an entire day to adhere to the tooth’s surface.
Currently researchers are using disused human teeth to experiment with the tooth patch, the next step will be to test it on animals and professor Hontsu said he would also be trying it on his own teeth in the very near future.
Don’t get too excited though, there is still a long way to go before you can pop down to your local dentist and ask for the Japanese tooth patch. It is expected to be another 5 years before it can be used in dental treatments, however Hontsu believes it could be used for cosmetic purposes within 3 years.