Japan scientists patent multi-use 'tooth patch' coating

Researchers in Japan have developed a multi-use "tooth patch"--a microscopic coating envisioned to prevent tooth decay, but also serve as a whitener and a way to reduce teeth sensitivity.

Agence France-Presse reports on the technology advance, made possible by scientists at Kinki University's Faculty of Biology-Oriented Science and Technology and Osaka Dental University. They are serious enough about bringing the discovery to market that they've obtained patients in Japan and South Korea. Don't worry about the U.S., Europe and China, because patent applications are being filed there, too, the AFP explains.

The device is made of hydroxyapatite, the primary mineral in tooth enamel, and is both durable and extremely flexible, according to the story. While there are plenty of anti-cavity films doctors use, this also appears to represent a major advance to have a sheet all made of apatite, making it harder to see and offering a more natural appearance. Once applied to a tooth, it is invisible and can be barely seen even under a light, according to Kinki University professor and product co-developer Shigeki Hontsu.

It may be a while though before the film can be used in people. One obstacle stands in the way: It takes an entire day to stick completely to the surface of a tooth, the researchers say, and could take 5 years or more before they can use it to treat sensitivity. On the other hand, they say the film can be made white for use in cosmetic dentistry, a use that could take as little as three years to materialize. After experimenting on removed human teeth, researchers will now advance to animal testing.

- read the AFP story