According to research conducted by scientists of theIndian Institute of Science of Bengaluru (IISc), a group of nanoscale robots treated with a magnetic field can kill germs in teeth deeply, increasing the success rates of root canal treatments.
I root canal treatments are the routine interventions to treat tooth infections. The procedure involves removing the infected tooth pulp and washing the tooth with antibiotics or to kill the bacteria that are causing the infection. Root canal treatment often fails to completely eliminate all bacteria from teeth, especially antibiotic-resistant ones like Enterococcus faecalis, which hide in tiny canals known as tubules.
Goodbye toothbrush, welcome team of robots
“The dentinal tubules are very small and the bacteria reside deep in the tissue. Current techniques are not efficient enough. They can't go all the way into the teeth and kill the bacteria, ”he says Shanmukh Srinivas, researcher and co-author of the study published in Advanced Healthcare Materials (I'll put it here).
Scientists have designed helical nanobots built with iron-coated silicon dioxide - they can be controlled with a device that generates a weak magnetic field. These nanobot they were then injected into extracted tooth samples and their movement observed under the microscope.
By changing the frequency of the magnetic field, the researchers were able to make the nanobots move at will. They made them go deep inside the dentinal tubules, and even exit at the end of the work (it was not obvious, says Srinivas).
“Basically, the team was able to manipulate the magnetic field. And with that, it made the nanobots' surface generate heat, which can kill nearby bacteria. No other technology on the market can do that right now, ”he echoes Debayan Dasgupta, another author of the research.
Nanobots and teeth: a success after many unsuccessful attempts
In the past, scientists have used ultrasound or laser pulses to generate shock waves in the fluid used to clean bacteria and tissue debris to improve the effectiveness of root canal therapy. These pulses, however, can only reach a distance of 800 micrometers and their energy dissipates quickly. The nanorobots were able to go much deeper, down to 2000 micrometers (or 2 millimeters, if you prefer).
Using heat to kill bacteria is also a safer alternative to harsh chemicals or antibiotics.
Now researchers are working on a new type of medical device. A device that can easily fit in the mouth and allow the dentist to inject and manipulate the nanobots inside the teeth during dental treatments.
"We are very close to implementing this technology in a clinical setting that was considered futuristic even three years ago." The time is not far off when we can place a sort of "dental bite" in the mouth, and with an app let it clean our teeth instead of a toothbrush.