Robots are synonymous with the future of technology. Robots that clean floors, make food, or serve drinks are among the better known of these smart machines. Soon, robots that promote improved oral hygiene may be providing assistance at a dental office near you.


Everything you eat and drink creates plaque on your teeth. This soft, sticky film serves as a host for millions of bacteria which feed off the plaque. The bacteria in the plaque can lead to cavities or gum disease if not removed through daily flossing and brushing, as well as regular visits to your dentist.


Engineers and doctors at the University of Pennsylvania teamed up to create a microscopic, robotic cleaning crew to fight plaque. They call the system “catalytic antimicrobial robots” or CARS. The researchers were able to steer the robots with a magnetic field. They initially tested the robots on a glass surface and enclosed glass tubes. Next, they tested the ability of robots to clean a human tooth. The tiny robots were able to remove biofilm from the surface. The system attacked plaque in difficult and confined areas between canals of the roots of teeth.

“This was a truly synergistic and multidisciplinary interaction,” Hyun (Michel) Koo, School of Dental Medicine, told ‘Penn Today.’ “We’re leveraging the expertise of microbiologists and clinician-scientists as well as engineers to design the best microbial eradication system possible. This is important to other biomedical fields facing drug-resistant biofilms as we approach a post-antibiotic era.”


The team is hoping to move forward with clinical tests. The Penn Center for Health, Devices and Technology (Penn Health-Tech) decided to officially support this project in 2018. Victoria Berenholz, the executive director of Penn Health-Tech, told ‘Penn Today’ that the team has a great clinical and technical background.

“We help to round them out by connecting them to business mentors and resources within the Penn community to translate their technology. They have really done a fantastic job on the project,” she told ‘Penn Today.’

“These developments in technology to help the dentistry field are exciting! As researchers continue to make advancements, patients can be assured that our practice is providing top of the line tools to keep your teeth and gums healthy,” said Dr. Jason Kboudi, Advanced Smile Care.

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