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Penn Team Develops Teeth-Cleaning Microbots

With technology like Allentown invisalign changing how dental care is handled, people are getting more and more options for getting their teeth cleaned. One team from the University of Pennsylvania developed something new for dentistry, bringing in automation and micro technology to dental practices.

The Penn team developed micro scoping robots, designed to precisely clean teeth without any form of scraping or invasive procedures; the robots are of two systems, one designed to work on surfaces, with the other designed for working in confined spaces. The scientists demonstrated that these robots, utilizing catalytic activity, can destroy bio films, the sticky clusters of bacteria grouped up in a protective layer on teeth and other surfaces

These robots weren’t necessarily designed for dental applications, unlike Allentown invisalign, but they are capable of working in such environs, along with dealing with water pipe cleaning, endodontic infections, as well as implant contamination.

The team’s work was published in Science Robotics, with Penn Dental Medicine’s Hyun Michel Koo and the School of Engineering and Applied Science’s Edward Steager.

The cross-school team banded together to develop and test two robotic systems, which they call ‘catalytic antimicrobial robots’ (CARs), which are capable of degrading and outright destroying biofilms. The first system uses iron-oxide nano particles, suspended in a solution, which can then be directed by magnets to remove the bio films present on surfaces, behaving like microscopic plows. The second system, meanwhile, embeds the nano particles into gel molds in three-dimensional shapes, which allows them to attack bio films clogging enclosed tubes.

Both types of CARs were effective in their task, breaking down the protective film that surrounds bacteria, killing them and removing debris with high levels of precision. On dental practice,  the CARs were not only able to remove bacteria biofilms from the surface of teeth, but also from the isthmus, a narrow channel between root canals where biofilm tends to accumulate, and is known for being one of the hardest part of the teeth to access.

Koo explains that current methods for dealing with biofilm are ineffective due to the fact that they can’t simultaneously degrade the protective layer, kill the bacteria embedded inside, and actually removing the biodegraded products. These new microbots can handle all of that simultaneously and effectively, Koo claims, and leave no trace of the biolfilms whatsoever.

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