Two schools at the University of Pennsylvania (The School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Dental Medicine) recently worked together to develop a new way of dental care. The results were a hands-free microrobotic system consisting of magnetic nanoparticles that can provide activities that brush and floss teeth. These nanoparticles can also act as an antimicrobial rinse, similar to mouthwash. The primary focus was on providing a way to help people with disabilities or who are older and have trouble taking care of these activities because they require fine motor skills.
Researchers said that they wanted to help those two demographics, but they also want to provide a better brushing experience, pointing out that toothbrush designs have not changed in decades. The new technology is customizable, so that people can adjust how soft or stiff the bristle is, as well as the length. It has a number of features that create a more thorough cleaning experience. It can also maneuver around gums, between teeth, and clean areas that are harder to reach. They are working to have the new technologies available to dental clinics, potentially with a mouth-fitting device to initiate the cleaning.
If it works, there is the potential for the technology to provide other dental treatments, such as root canal disinfection. Researchers are looking into other ways to use it outside of the dental field as well.
This is definitely an exciting new area and one that can be overlooked. If you want to read the full article, including some interesting images, you can check it out at Researchers Develop Shape-shifting Microrobots That Can Brush, Floss, and Rinse Teeth.