Tiny cleaning robots kill bacteria in tooth crevices

May 18, 2022
Tiny cleaning robots kill bacteria in tooth crevices

Miniaturised robots, or nanobots, are now being used by scientists at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) to clean out bacteria hidden deep in our teeth. The helical-shaped nanobots are injected and steered within the tooth using magnetic fields, and can also be extracted out of the tooth once the heat-based deep cleaning task is complete.

This method offers a safer and more potent way to improve the success of root canal treatments which, despite standard flushing out of the tooth with chemicals that kill off bacteria, might still harbour antibiotic-resistant species contained in dentinal tubules.

[Dentinal tubules are microscopic channels that branch out from the pulp of the tooth, stopping just short of the outer enamel. The bacteria that build up in these channels can cause infections requiring a root canal.]

IISc scientists developed nanobots made from silicon dioxide with an iron coating that are controlled by a magnetic field: the robots can be taken to depths of up to 2,000 micrometers, where the field can be tweaked to make the robots generate heat and kill off residual bacteria.

This was demonstrated by injecting the robots into extracted tooth samples, with the scientists successfully moving them about so they penetrate deep into the dentinal tubules to take out the bacteria. In addition, the scientists were able to retrieve the robots, drawing them out of the tooth sample once the job was done.

“No other technology in the market can do this right now,” said Debayan Dasgupta, Co-founder at Theranautilus, and Research Associate at the Centre for Nano Science and Engineering (CeNSE), IISc.

The scientists are looking to commercialise the technology through IISc spin-off company called Theranautilus; they are also working on a purpose-built medical device dentists can use to deploy and control the robots inside the mouth during root canal treatment.

“We are very close to deploying this technology in a clinical setting, which was considered futuristic even three years ago,” said Ambarish Ghosh, CeNSE Professor and Co-founder of Theranautilus. “It is a joy to see how a simple scientific curiosity is shaping into a medical intervention that can impact millions of people in India alone.”

Dasgupta and Ghosh are members of a team that developed the cleaning nanobots, alongside Theranautilus CEO Shamukh Srinivas.

Category: Features, Technology & Devices

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