Tiny shapeshifting robots clean teeth and gets rid of bacteria

July 18, 2022
Tiny shapeshifting robots clean teeth and gets rid of bacteria

You might soon be able to use hands-free, shapeshifting microbots to clean your teeth instead of mechanical or motorised toothbrushes. The innovative dental microrobots can not only change shape to form bristles or floss according to the different shapes or spacing of teeth, but also kills bad bacteria.

The new system of microbots, engineered at the University of Pennsylvania, is expected to do away with the menial task of brushing teeth, while allowing people with reduced fine motor skills to still take care of their oral health.

The microbots are made up of antimicrobial iron oxide nanoparticles, which can be assembled into different formations and controlled using magnetic fields. The nanoparticles can take the form of bristles to brush plaque from tooth surfaces, or be arranged into thinner floss-like strands to reach between teeth.

Meanwhile, the iron oxide will trigger the production of free radicals that kills bacteria responsible for the sticky biofilms formed on teeth.

The engineers first tested the microbots out on a flat slab of artificial tooth-like material and then over 3D-printed tooth models, before they were finally mounted on real human teeth in a device that arranged them in the way they would sit in the mouth.

The tests showed that these microrobots could efficiently remove plaque and biofilms, reducing pathogenic bacteria below detectable levels. The engineers were also able to precisely control the bristle stiffness and length by adjusting the magnetic field, thus allowing the tips to be made firm enough to clean the teeth but still soft enough to be gentle on gums.

Category: Features, Technology & Devices

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