Japan tooth patch could be end of decay

September 16, 2012
Handout picture released from Japan's Kinki University professor Shigeki Hontsu shows a tooth-patch, an ultra thin biocompatible film made from hydroxyapatitte. Scientists in Japan have created a microscopically thin film that can coat individual teeth to prevent decay or to make them appear whiter, the chief researcher said.

Scientists in Japan have created a microscopically thin film that can coat individual teeth to prevent decay or to make them appear whiter, the chief researcher said.

The "tooth patch" is a hard-wearing and ultra- made from hydroxyapatite, the main mineral in , that could also mean an end to sensitive teeth.

"This is the world's first flexible apatite sheet, which we hope to use to protect teeth or repair damaged enamel," said Shigeki Hontsu, professor at Kinki University's Faculty of Biology-Oriented Science and Technology in western Japan.

"Dentists used to think an all- 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 can create film just 0.004 millimetres (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 crystallise them, before the salt stand is dissolved in water.

The film is scooped up onto and dried, after which it is robust enough to be picked up by a pair of tweezers.

"The moment you put it on a , it becomes invisible. You can barely see it if you examine it under a light," Hontsu told AFP by telephone.

The sheet has a number of minute holes that allow liquid and air to escape from underneath to prevent their forming bubbles when it is applied onto a tooth.

One problem is that it takes almost one day for the film to adhere firmly to the tooth's surface, said Hontsu.

The film is currently transparent but it is possible to make it white for use in cosmetic dentistry.

Researchers are experimenting on disused at the moment but the team will soon move to tests with animals, Hontsu said, adding he was also trying it on his own teeth.

Five years or more would be needed before the film could be used in practical such as covering exposed dentin—the sensitive layer underneath enamel—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.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Lack of guidance may delay a child's first trip to the dentist

February 19, 2018
Without a doctor or dentist's guidance, some parents don't follow national recommendations for early dental care for their children, a new national poll finds.

Researcher uses stem cells to attack bacteria and regenerate dental pulp

February 7, 2018
Emi Shimizu's research could someday transform a procedure dental patients dread: the root canal.

Cavity prevention approach effectively reduces tooth decay

January 22, 2018
A scientifically based approach that includes a tooth-decay risk assessment, aggressive preventive measures and conservative restorations can dramatically reduce decay in community dental practices, according to a study by ...

Painless dental lasers can render teeth cavity-resistant

November 21, 2017
Almost as soon as lasers were invented in the 1960s, curious dentists wondered if these powerful forms of light could be used on teeth, though those early lasers were much too crude for any useful dental work.

Nanodiamonds show promise for aiding recovery from root canal

October 23, 2017
People who undergo root canals may soon have a tiny but powerful ally that could prevent infection after treatment.

Research shows aspirin could repair tooth decay

September 8, 2017
Researchers at Queen's University Belfast have discovered that aspirin could reverse the effects of tooth decay resulting in a reduction in the need for fillings. Currently about 7 million fillings are provided by the NHS ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

4.1 / 5 (7) Sep 16, 2012
Ladies and gentlemen,
In my brief lifetime (pushing 70 years!) EVERY dental discovery and/or accessory has been claimed to be the end of dental caries (tooth decay!)! Flouride in the water was going to end the problem (it didn't!). Certain techniques (the use of polymer bonds and UV light for one!) was supposed to put an end to cavities, and didn't! The ONLY thing these developments have done for the patient is to raise the price of a filling, orthodontia, or whatever. We need to get back to the basics: brush you teeth with a soft brush twice a day; use floss daily; be aware of sugar and acids in our foods; stop worrying about the shape of our teeth; and, remember, real beauty is not in the smile...it is in the heart of the wearer!!
1 / 5 (4) Sep 16, 2012
Ladies and gentlemen...it is in the heart of the wearer!!

Totally agreed. I've been following the glacial progress of science trying to put dentists out of business for the last 25 years, and I've come to the conclusion that it will never happen in my lifetime (one can hope for our great-grand children!). Therefore,I nuke the scum entry point. Brush your teeth after meal, or eat carrots or celery to scour away the bits that stuck to my teeth. Brush my teeth with a mouthful of powder table salt, scouring away the plague and rejoicing in killing billions of the nasty buggers in your mouth that are doing harm to my precious enamel. My teeth is colored by tetracycline antibiotics when I was young, the parents nor the medicos then know anything about its side-effects; but pushing 47, I still have every tooth fully functional, never seen a dentist in my whole life, still nonchalantly crushing ice cubes for fun and joy to the dismay of my dentist-repaired teeth friends!
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 16, 2012
Squirt, what you said about previous advances failing to end tooth decay does not apply here... this is artificial enamel... this is literally creating the exact same substance that already protects your teeth. With this we are not trying to use some new approach to the problem, we are trying to reproduce the one that already exists in nature.
2.6 / 5 (5) Sep 16, 2012
Don't worry squirt, even if this works perfectly, it will never see the light of day in the USA. That ADA has too strong a lobby to ever allow it to be approved by the FDA.
3 / 5 (2) Sep 16, 2012
Ladies and gentlemen,
In my brief lifetime (pushing 70 years!) EVERY dental discovery and/or accessory has been claimed to be the end of dental caries (tooth decay!)!

To be fair, they're saying it 'could' be the end of tooth decay, not that it is the end of tooth decay, and they're awaiting more experimental evidence that it is the case, not outright making any claims. I'm assuming that the material mentioned in the article has special properties which could aid against tooth decay, which hasn't been used before in this way the field, hence:

"Dentists used to think an all-apatite sheet was just a dream..."
not rated yet Sep 16, 2012
They cured Dental Carries when they invented the toothbrush and dental floss. The use of fluoride further made it increasingly difficult to develop carries. Every innovation and invention since has been developed to help those who are too lazy to brush and floss. People who don't care for their teeth then expect the dentist to fix it should pay through the ass.
5 / 5 (2) Sep 16, 2012
Granted that this won't be an end to dentistry (it will need to be applied by dentists, after all), it could help with reducing cavities by filling in and smoothing over nooks and crannies where bacteria tend to aggregate. You don't generally get cavities starting from a smooth tooth surface, after all.

And Skepticus, from what I've seen there seem to be two types of people when it comes to teeth -- those who get cavities and those who don't. The best explanation I've seen is that the pH level differs in the mouths of the two groups, with a higher pH being more beneficial. It doesn't seem to correlate with degree of brushing, flossing or other care.
not rated yet Sep 16, 2012
Sounds great. Lets hope they can make it work.
There is however another way of achieving no caries on your teeth and that is using Xylitol in your diet instead of sugar. We have done it for years in our family and all our children have zero caries, no holes by just cleaning their teeth mostly once a day. Us adults managed to stop our filled teeth to get any worse and even the dentist had to admit that it works! The "toothpaste" we use is homemade with mostly xylitol and some glycerine with a drop of peppermint or eucalyptus oil and a small amount of salt. It is cheap and you can swallow it without any concerns which is particularily important for children.
1 / 5 (4) Sep 16, 2012
will never happen in my lifetime (one can hope for our great- children!)

Coupled/Crippled,by Our Ever-Expanding Debt;our Great-Grand-Children will be unable to pay for, or afford a Dental visit!

DNA will Ultimately prove/answer: Why some Octogenarians, with little
formal 'Dental Hygiene' during their lifetimes, 'Cross-Over' with, barring Accidents, their Natural Teeth!

Roy J Stewart,
Phoenix AZ

P.S. Pondering E=MC2. The most Distant light (recently posted as 47 Billion Light years) . . . Edge of Universe???
Presumably, that Light, also traveled Away/Opposite Direction for that same period of time . . . Is that forty-seven Billion Light Years an Elastic figure . . . for I 'estimates' I have read have placed as the 'edge of the Universe' from 15 Billion C/Years!
Also, as Galileo was scorned for 'daring' to say: "The Earth Revolves around the Sun, not The Sun, revolves 'round the Earth'!

1 / 5 (2) Sep 16, 2012
It is there on the market and comes pretty close to what it claims to do.
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 17, 2012
People who don't care for their teeth then expect the dentist to fix it should pay through the ass.

Yeah, so why you are so pissed off that I never see a dentist in my 46 years by taking good care of my precious teeth myself, and rate my comment 1? Please explain, at least point out the which or why you disagree, as an intelligent, objective, logical, scientific-minded person, as most are on this science sounding board? Are you a dentist down on business, by any chance? I hope not.
1 / 5 (2) Sep 17, 2012
And Skepticus, from what I've seen there seem to be two types of people when it comes to teeth -- those who get cavities and those who don't..

I beg to differ. Please quote peer-reviewed papers that say scientists can tell teeth from such and such populations from a double-blinded test. Imho, teeth are created equal-chemically and structurally-for everyone on this planet. Why so? In every population on this planet, there are persons who keep their teeth to old age, and those who don't. Taking the laxity of human behavior into account, that people eat for an hour or two or three, then rest for 8 hours or more for the plague, bacteria, acids to do the damage, how much time do they really spend on cleaning their grinders? And properly? who spend no more than 2-5 minutes a day? Who do look, check and do more? People have a regrettable tendency of ignoring low-maintenance systems until they go kaput-teeth, heart, liver, kidney, gut, you name it.
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 18, 2012
@Skepticus; cdt does have a point, your likely level of caries/cavities does depend on the ph level of your saliva. There is a genetic basis as well, for variations in ph levels in individuals who might actually be doing the exact same things. Here are some articles. By the time that you have finished reading them, you should be quite an expert. The second one is my favourite; it is written for dental students and presents a comprehensive picture - but is easy to read:

A bit involved, but very informative:


This one as an example to simply to show that variations across different genomic subgroups do exist. I found a huge bundle of them.
Best Regards, DH66
Sep 19, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
1 / 5 (3) Sep 20, 2012
We have had numerous tooth decay remedies and cures since the 70s but why destroy a multi-billion business?
Vendicar Dickarian
1 / 5 (3) Sep 22, 2012
argghhhh....why does MedicalXpress.com make me sign in again after I've logged into Physorg? Surely this is an easy fix.

Anyway, @squirt16oz - you are absolutely correct. I'm in my mid-40s, and I've also seen countless "cures" for tooth decay. In fact, there was a lively debate on this very site last year about one such claim. Undoubtedly we will someday have a simple, cheap cure for tooth decay, but I'm not holding my breath.

Many of these new ideas are excellent as research tools, but fail in later stages as the engineers, designers, marketing and advertising folks get involved. What's that....you have yet to practice on a live human being? Oh, my....we'll talk to you again in about 15 years. I'm still waiting for "advances" I heard about in the 1980s and 1990s to come to fruition.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.