Could a future exists where patients no longer have to brush or worry about flossing before visiting their family dentist in Seaside? Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have closer to realizing this dream than many would have expected with the development of shapeshifting microrobots that can clean and floss teeth.
The research team developed this remarkable new technology using iron oxide nanoparticles with magnetic and catalytic properties. This enables the researchers to control the movement of the nanoparticles using a magnetic field.
As a result, researchers could transform the nanoparticles into bristle-like structures that remove plaque from teeth, and into long strings that clean between teeth like dental floss. The hands-free system could successfully remove plaque and lower the risk of tooth decay and gum disease, just as daily brushing and flossing do.
Programmable Technology Promises a New Future for Oral Care
“Nanoparticles can be shaped and controlled with magnetic fields in surprising ways,” reported the research team. “We form bristles that can extend, sweep, and even transfer back and forth across a space, much like flossing. The way it works is similar to how a robotic arm might reach out and clean a surface. The system can be programmed to do the nanoparticle assembly and motion control automatically.”
The programmable nature of the technology allows researchers to fine-tune the field to make the nanoparticles more capable of removing plaque to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. The bristles can be made thick enough to remove plaque but thin enough not to damage gum tissue.
This enables the technology to be customizable to each individual patient’s oral health needs.
Replacing the Unpopular
Brushing and flossing don’t get the credit they deserve, despite the value the habits provide to an individual’s oral health. Kids view brushing and floss as a chore, while most adults view the habits as a necessary inconvenience.
Some patients with diminished mobility have a hard time correctly brushing and flossing.
Combined, it’s little wonder why nearly 50 percent of adults in the U.S. have gum disease.
This study aimed to create a technology capable of performing the boring, but essential, task of daily oral hygiene. Due to the study’s success, researchers hope to develop the technology into an actual product.
The research team believes the new hands-free technology could offer a breakthrough, especially for those unable to brush and floss independently.
“Routine oral care is cumbersome and can pose challenges for many people, especially those who have a hard time cleaning their teeth,” wrote the researchers.
“You have to brush your teeth, then floss your teeth, then rinse your mouth; it’s a manual, multi-step process. The big innovation here is that the robotic system can do all three in a single, hands-free, automated way.”
The team also noted: “We have this technology that’s as or more effective than brushing and flossing your teeth but doesn’t require manual dexterity. We’d love to see this helping elderly patients and those with disabilities.”
Can Technology Replace Your Family Dentist in Seaside?
Even if a future where robots clean your teeth exist, you’ll still need to visit your family dentist in Seaside.
The design of the toothbrush has remained unchanged for over 100 years, despite so many other advances in our daily lives. While this innovation offers a lot of potential, it won’t replace the need to receive regular checkups and cleanings from our team at Seaside Family Dentistry.
But if robots do start performing the chore of brushing and flossing, that will give all of us something to smile about.