Newly Created Microbots Can Brush and Floss Teeth Automatically

These tiny robots are a perfect tooth cleaning tool.

Tiny robots may replace toothbrushes.

(Oksana Kuzmina /

Imagine a time when cleaning your teeth is a one step process, with practically no effort. Instead of brushing, flossing and then rinsing your teeth, you could just let some tiny robots do the work for you.

A multidisciplinary team of University of Pennsylvania scientists recently published a study in ACSNano that introduces a startling new dental invention. The study suggests that microbots made of iron oxide nanoparticles can be manipulated into bristle shapes for brushing and long thin shapes for flossing by using magnetic fields.

According to the university’s news source Penn Today, iron oxide is essential because it creates a catalytic reaction that produces antimicrobials that kill oral bacteria and degrade dental plaque biofilms. This creates the perfect teeth-cleaning tool. 

Some serendipity
It took some serendipity for this invention to come together. There were originally two University of Pennsylvania teams studying iron oxide for different purposes.

One, led by Hyun Michel Koo, a professor in the Department of Orthodontics, was interested in the catalytic properties of iron oxide, the other, led by Edward Steager, a senior research investigator in the Penn School of Engineering, was interested in iron oxide as the basis for magnetically controlled nanobots. 

Eventually, the two teams came together to create the amazing teeth-brushing nanobots. The microbots were tested on both false and real teeth. And because they are so programmable, they could be customized to any mouth, regardless of whether a person’s teeth align or not. Additionally, the bristles can be made firm enough to brush away plaque, but soft enough so that they do not damage your gum tissue. 

More than just a disruption
There haven’t been many advances in toothbrushing, Koo told CNBC News. He noted that tooth-brushing has not been disrupted in decades. In fact, the last major advent was electric toothbrushes.

But the disruption of the field of oral hygiene is not the only, or even the most important benefit of the bots. The real added value of this new invention is for people with mobility issues for whom teeth brushing can be a real ordeal. “We’d love to see this helping the geriatric population and people with disabilities,” Koo told CNBC. 

As much as it is nice to think about how much quicker your daily routines would go with tiny robots doing your teeth cleaning for you. Or how many dentist appointments you could potentially avoid, this invention is still in the experimentation phase.

It will probably be at least a few years before the microbots make it to market. So until then keep on brushing and flossing and keep your teeth healthy and clean.

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