Japanese scientists have developed an ultra-thin material that can protect teeth from decay and restore tooth enamel. The material can be wrapped around the teeth to prevent the growth of bacteria, AFP reports.

Previous research on preventing tooth decay was based on reducing plaque, pale yellow bacterial biofilm, on the teeth, but this new material will stop bacteria from growing on the teeth by acting as a barrier.

A hydroxyapatite (HA) sheet is used as a biomaterial for repairing teeth and bones. However, the material's inflexibility limited its uses. Now, researchers from Kinki University, Japan, have found a way to make it flexible.

The 0.00016-inch thick HA sheet is created by firing lasers at blocks of hydroxyapatite in a vacuum, AFP said. "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, AFP reported.

"Dentists used to think an all-apatite sheet was just a dream, but we are aiming to create artificial enamel," Hontsu told AFP.

"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 told AFP by telephone. The sheet can be made white for use in dental settings. The sheet was tested on disposed human teeth. Researchers say that they will soon be moving on to testing the material on animals and later on humans. It would take about five years for the material to be used in actual dental procedures.

Professor Hontsu and his research team have applied for a patent for its dental applications, says a news release from Kinki University.