A Study From Penn Dental Medicine Shows a Glimpse of the Future of Oral Hygiene: Shapeshifting Microbots That Brush and Floss Your Teeth

January 17, 2023

Every time you visit Dr. Dhiraj Sharma, he reminds you of the importance of regularly brushing and flossing. But those daily tasks may look different in the future. Technology from a team at Penn Dental Medicine offers a potential new system for brushing and flossing.

About the Technology

This technology features shapeshifting microbots made of iron oxide nanoparticles. Those nanoparticles have magnetic and catalytic activity. Researchers used a magnetic field to direct the configuration and motion of the nanoparticles. Meanwhile, a catalytic reaction causes the nanoparticles to create antimicrobials to kill harmful oral bacteria.

To mimic brushing, they configured the nanoparticles into bristle-like structures that sweep dental plaque off of teeth’s broad surfaces. To mimic flossing, they configured the particles into elongated strips that could slip between teeth.

The system was used on both mock and real human teeth. Various tests confirmed that the robotics could adapt to various shapes, almost fully eliminating biofilms that cause gum disease and cavities.

The team behind the microbots says that they can program the system to automate nanoparticle assembly and motion control.

Why It Matters

These microbots could potentially provide the solution to ensuring that people brush and floss effectively. But the system is most valuable for those who can’t brush or floss. For instance, it can help people without enough manual dexterity to brush and floss efficiently on their own.

But even for the average person, the use of these robotics could be time-saving and convenient. Currently, you have to do a step-by-step process of brushing, flossing, and rinsing. The microbots could do all of these without any effort on your part.


In the future, you may be able to use microbots to brush and floss your teeth automatically, saving you the hassle of doing so manually. For now, stick to brushing and flossing your teeth regularly and consult with the best dentist in Chicago to maintain oral health.


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