Shapeshifting Toothbrushing Micro Robots
Why brush and floss manually, when you could have shapeshifting micro robots do both jobs? Researchers at University of Pennsylvania are working on micro robots coated with iron oxide nanoparticles that have both catalytic and magnetic activity. When using a magnetic field, their motion could be directed and configured to form either bristle-like structures that sweep away dental plaque from the broad surfaces of teeth or elongated strings that can slip between teeth like a length of floss.

Shapeshifting Toothbrushing Micro Robots
Whether brushing or flossing, a catalytic reaction drives the nanoparticles on the micro robots to produce antimicrobials that kill harmful oral bacteria on site. Tests using this system on mock as well as real human teeth showed that the micro robots are capable of conforming to a variety of shapes, thus nearly eliminating the sticky biofilms that lead to cavities and gum disease. Now we just need these micro robots to be equipped with an AI-based detection algorithm, like Microsoft’s BeachBot.

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Routine oral care is cumbersome and can pose challenges for many people, especially those who have hard time cleaning their teeth. You have to brush your teeth, then floss your teeth, then rinse your mouth; it’s a manual, multistep process. The big innovation here is that the robotics system can do all three in a single, hands-free, automated way,” said Hyun (Michel) Koo, co-corresponding author on the study.


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