An interesting development for those with diminished manual dexterity comes our way in the form of what researchers are calling microbots.

These tiny robots are made of iron oxide, and can be remote controlled via magnetism for a variety of maneuvers. They could be configured for broad strokes to brush and remove plaque from flat tooth surfaces, or even vertical motions between teeth. Essentially, researchers are saying this provides a brushing and flossing solution in a hands-off way, in a direct sense.

“We form bristles that can extend, sweep, and even transfer back and forth across a space, much like flossing. The way it works is similar to how a robotic arm might reach out and clean a surface. The system can be programmed to do the nanoparticle assembly and motion control automatically.”

Edward Steager, senior research investigator of Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science

Researchers also state that the shape and size of teeth do not affect the microbots’ ability to clean them. The bots can adapt to varying surfaces, and were found to be effective both in removing plaque and buildup that lead to gum disease and cavities. In each of the trials run on actual mouths (and not models) the bots did not harm the gum tissue — even when cleaning teeth right along the gum line.

Tests were conducted both on human teeth in participants’ mouths, as well as 3D printed gum lines and teeth to monitor the bots’ ability to thoroughly clean any angle and in nooks and crannies.

The results seem impressive, and enough so that the microbots have already been FDA approved for these and other uses.