Japan-based scientists have developed a microscopically-thin film that can coat individual teeth to prevent decay.
The ‘tooth coating’ is a hard-wearing, ultra-flexible material, according to AFP, and made from “hydroxyapatite”, the main mineral in tooth enamel (the outermost layer of a tooth).
“This is the world’s first flexible apatite sheet, which we hope to use to protect teeth or repair damaged enamel,” Shigeki Hontsu, professor at Kinki University’s Faculty of Biology-Oriented Science and Technology, told AFP.
“Dentists used to think an all-apatite sheet was just a dream, but we are aiming to create artificial enamel.”
Scientists also claim that the material makes teeth appear whiter and protect teeth from sensitivity.
To create the film, lasers are fired at compressed blocks of hydroxyapatite in a vacuum—to make individual particles pop out.
The particles fall onto a block of heated salt, and crystallized—before being submerged in water, where the salt would dissolve and leave the particles (film) behind.
The thin film (0.004mm-thick) is scooped up and left to dry on filter paper.
“The moment you put it on a tooth surface, it becomes invisible,” Hontsu said. “You can barely see it if you examine it under a light.”
According to the AFP, the sheet has minute holes to allow liquid and air to escape from underneath to prevent bubbles from forming when it is applied onto a tooth.
One problem researchers face is adhering the film to the tooth’s surface—it takes almost one day.
The film is still undergoing testing and is estimated to be available in dental treatment in five years.