September 17, 2012
Artificial Tooth Enamel Makes Teeth Whiter, Prevents Tooth Decay
John Neumann for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Researchers from Japan have succeeded in manufacturing an artificial tooth enamel that can be applied over existing teeth, preventing decay, making the teeth appear whiter, or even end the sensation of sensitive teeth, says Shigeki Hontsu, professor at Kinki University´s Faculty of Biology-Oriented Science and Technology in Japan.
The hard-wearing and ultra-flexible material is created from the main mineral in tooth enamel, hydroxyapatite.
“This is the world´s first flexible apatite sheet, which we hope to use to protect teeth or repair damaged enamel,” Hontsu told AFP. “Dentists used to think an all-apatite sheet was just a dream, but we are aiming to create artificial enamel,” the outermost layer of a tooth, he said earlier this month.
Researchers were able to create the film in the lab as thin as 0.00016 inches thick by firing lasers at compressed blocks of hydroxyapatite in a vacuum to make individual particles pop out.
These particles fall onto a block of salt which is heated to crystallize them, before the salt stand is dissolved in water. The film is scooped up onto filter paper and dried, after which it is robust enough to be picked up by a pair of tweezers.
“The moment you put it on a tooth surface, it becomes invisible. You can barely see it if you examine it under a light,” Hontsu continued. The sheet has a number of minute holes that allow liquid and air to escape from underneath to prevent the forming of bubbles when it is applied onto a tooth.
The only major issue, which the researchers are still perfecting, is that it takes nearly a day for the film to adhere firmly to the tooth´s surface. The film is currently transparent but it is possible to make it white for use in cosmetic dentistry.
The researchers said it will still most likely be another five years before this type of treatment could be implemented in practical dental procedures. However, once approved and perfected, the treatment will aid in covering exposed dentin, which causes sensitive teeth, but it could be used cosmetically within three years, Hontsu said.
The technology, which has been jointly developed with Kazushi Yoshikawa, associate professor at Osaka Dental University, is patented in Japan and South Korea and applications are under way in the United States, Europe and China.