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Protective Tooth Coatings

Updated on September 21, 2012

What is hydroxyapatite? Well it's the main ingredient in tooth enamel and Japanese scientists from Kinki University have managed to create a 0.004mm coating made out of this mineral which can be used to coat teeth and pevent tooth decay altogether.

The crystals that form tooth enamel are hydroxyapatite crystals formed in bundles called prisms.

Tooth coatings are not new and non-permanent dental coatings have been tested in the past and shown to reduce a number of physical, chemical and biological 'irritations' on tooth enamel.

The recent Japanese development is unique because it uses the technique of making the coatings - in this case a very fine film only visible under microscope - out of hydroxyapatite or the very mineral that enamel is made from in the first place.

Dental sealants are not new and have been commercially available since the 1970s to protect against tooth decay most especially for the back molars which are the most vulnerable as brushing often missed the grooves and fissures in these back teeth.

In combination with fluoride toothpaste sealants have proved to be quite effective against food/carbohydrates which turn into acid, sit in the minute fissures in teeth and cause decay.The basic premise of sealants is that it is easier to prevent decay by coating teeth with plastic than fix cavities once the damage is done.

The process of applying the sealants is relatively easy - the teeth are cleaned, a gel is applied and then the sealant which takes about a minute to dry is applied. The resulting coating lasts 5-10 years.

However, there have been some problems with these thin plastic or self-curing sealants

These problems include:

  • how long the sealant will give maximum protection/be effective
  • minute splitting which means the very food that the sealant is designed to keep out can become trapped under or in the coating causing acid to build up and eventual cause what the sealant was designed to prevent; namely, decay.
  • concern over the plastic sealant BPA which has been found in saliva after the application of these coatings. BPA is a plastic that has also been used in consumer products bottles and food containers and several warnings have been issued by a number of governments over its safety. In the US, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has warned of possible effects on unborn babies and young children.

The new Japanese coating which uses the main mineral in tooth enamel is still not full tested and it may be a while before it can be applied over the sensitive layer that runs below tooth enamel (the dentin) but cosmetically it is probably not too far away.

The Japanses scientists have successfully adhered this new enamel skin to discarded teeth but the procedure takes a lot longer than traditional coatings - at least one day to apply.



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    • profile image
      Author 5 years ago

      Keeping you updated LadyE - cheers for drop by sistar!

    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 5 years ago from London, UK

      First time I have read about it. Very useful to know. Thanks.

    • profile image
      Author 5 years ago

      Thanks for the rating Kate!

    • Kate Mc Bride profile image

      Kate McBride 5 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      This is a great idea to use sealant to prevent tooth decay although it does have it's disadvantages as you pointed out.Voted this hub up and useful.


    • profile image
      Author 5 years ago

      kj force - good point you make. Agreed the cosmetic factor will always have appeal despite the side-effects - but that's the thrill of risk-taking I suppose for a perceived gain/more exciting life. On the otherhand, the new coatings developed in Japan will probably be safer than BPA based - I would assume so anyway considering they are made from the same mineral in tooth enamel - thanks for your contribution to this hub!

    • profile image
      Author 5 years ago

      drbj - well give it a few more years for the Japanese development to take effect and cavities may indeed be a thing of the past...I thought it was amazing that a coating could be made from the very substance that comprises tooth enamel - thanks for dropping by with that great mind of yours!

    • kj force profile image

      kjforce 5 years ago from Florida leave it to the Japanese...society will jump on this I'm sure, anything cosmetic that can create more beauty, who cares if there are side effects.." I will look better"..we as a society have not yet seen the side effects of ALL the "plastic" and snythetic drugs used over the past 20 years..or have we ? More Health issues today than ever..something to think about...hmmmm.Great Hub..

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 5 years ago from south Florida

      Yay, I was saying to myself, pd, as I read the first part of your hub. Now cavities can be a thing of the past. Then I read the rest. BPA is not my favorite additive - no way. Sayonara - back to the drawing board.