When enamel erosion occurs, teeth become more sensitive to pain due to temperature, certain foods or an influx of bacteria. Dental professionals have always struggled how to come up with ways to prevent further decay, but now a group of Japanese scientists may finally have a solution. Known as a “tooth patch,” this extremely thin cap acts to shield the at-risk tooth from bacteria.
Shigeki Hontsu, a professor at Japan’s Kinki University, created the cap by utilizing a sampling of hydroxyapatite, which is the principal compound in human enamel. The process involves firing a series of lasers as a film of this material that is approximately 0.004 millimeters thick and placed inside a vacuum. The resulting heat causes the hydroxyapatite to expand and “pop”, enabling the scientists to mold them to fit the patient’s teeth.
“This is the world’s first flexible apatite sheet, which we hope to use to protect teeth or repair damaged enamel,” Hontsu told international news source Agence France-Presse. “Dentists used to think an all-apatite sheet was just a dream, but we are aiming to create artificial enamel.”
Hontsu went on to tell the source that people can hardly see the implant after its been put in place, even the scientists who install it.
“The moment you put it on a tooth surface, it becomes invisible. You can barely see it if you examine it under a light,” he added.
Currently, the development phase has been restricted to individual test teeth. Animal studies are set to begin sometime in the next year, with human trials hopefully soon after. Hontsu expects the product to have both cosmetic and medical benefits, especially for those who have exposed nerves or dentin.
While dental implants are certainly helpful, nothing beats regular visits to an affordable dental care provider and a thorough brushing and flossing routine.