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Tiny, Shapeshifting Robots Used to Clean Teeth

How do you feel about automating the tooth cleaning process through microrobot technology? Well, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania decided that they should try. The School of Dental Medicine and School of Engineering and Applied Science teamed up to create a shapeshifting micro swarm of iron oxide nanoparticles that can effectively clean plaque from teeth.

NEW TECHNOLOGY

This microrobot technology was developed by a multidisciplinary team at the University of Pennsylvania. The building blocks of these microrobots are iron oxide nanoparticles that possess both catalytic and magnetic activity. The researchers showed that they could use a magnetic field to manipulate the nanoparticles’ shape and direct their motion. Using this magnetic activity, the microrobots could form either bristle-like structures or elongated strings that could sweep away dental plaque from broad surfaces and in between teeth.

The catalytic activity of the microrobot nanoparticles would activate hydrogen peroxide to release free radicals to help eliminate plaque and bacteria that cause tooth decay.

This electromagnetic system is “fully programmable” and can use different variations to control the stiffness and length of bristle formations. It can also determine the speed and motion of the microrobots depending on the topography of an individual’s oral cavity. The Penn team will continue optimizing the robots’ motions and determine the best mouth-fitting device to advance the innovation to the clinic.

EFFECTS ON ORAL HEALTH

The team at the University of Pennsylvania describes their microrobot technology as being particularly valuable to those who lack the manual dexterity to effectively clean their own teeth. The researchers found that this system cleaned surfaces of all detectible pathogens.

Professor Michael Koo says, “We’d love to see this helping the geriatric population and people with disabilities. We believe it will disrupt current modalities and majorly advance oral health care.”

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