Microrobots Can Effectively Personalize Root Canal Therapy

The root canal system has quite a number of anatomical intricacies. These intricacies make it one of the most therapeutically demanding regions in the oral cavity. As a result, biofilms that have not been cleaned effectively from the canals’ nooks and crannies could be a significant cause of treatment failure and recurrent endodontic infections. Presently, there are few ways to evaluate or measure disinfection efficacy. Clinicians are hoping for a new tool to help them overcome these obstacles in the shape of microrobots.

Root Canal

Root Canal, Image Courtesy of Jeremy Kemp

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Small-scale robotics and nanotechnology advancements are opening up previously unimagined avenues for new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches with great precision, control, and efficiency.

Researchers demonstrated in a proof-of-concept study that microrobots can access the difficult-to-reach surfaces of the root canal with controlled precision, treating and disrupting biofilms and even retrieving samples for diagnostics, allowing for a more personalized treatment plan.

The team published its findings in the Journal of Dental Research. The study focused on utilizing two distinct micro-robotic platforms for endodontic therapy.

Better tracking equals better treatment

The research team demonstrated the unique capacity to track the microrobots in real-time. They utilized existing imaging technologies such as intraoral scanners, dental X-rays, and cone-beam computed tomography, all of which can detect the helicoids in the intact tooth canal.

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The scientists presented in an ex vivo model that the magnetic field could drive the robots without being interrupted by the soft and hard tissue surrounding the teeth. They also demonstrated incredible mobility from top to bottom of the canal.

The technique could enable multimodal functionalities such as controlled, precision targeting of biofilms in difficult-to-reach areas, the collection of microbiological samples, and delivering targeted drugs.

The microrobots in both platforms were built with iron oxide nanoparticles (NPs) that have both catalytic and magnetic activity and are FDA authorized for various usage. A magnetic field is used in the first platform to concentrate the NPs in aggregated micro swarms and magnetically control them to the apical portion of the tooth to disrupt and recover biofilms via a catalytic reaction. The second platform makes miniature helix-shaped robots embedded with iron oxide nanoparticles using 3D printing.

Magnetic fields direct these helicoids as they migrate through the root canal, transporting bioactive or medications that can be released locally.

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One critical component is the capacity to have both diagnostic and therapeutic applications. With the findings, scientists can not only eliminate the biofilm but also extract it using the microswarm platform, allowing them to determine which microorganisms caused the infection. Furthermore, the ability to adjust to the tight and difficult-to-reach regions within the root canal enables more effective disinfection than the current filing and instrumentation approach.

Clinical significance

Root canal treatments have not been very efficient so far. The intricate nature of the root canal system has posed a challenge to clinicians in dental therapy. The new study shows a potential for microrobots’ use in more effective root canal therapy. With a more targeted approach and better effectiveness, microrobots can help change the current practices in dental science. A more personalized treatment for patients is now possible.

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The findings from the present research can lead to using microbots in diagnosing and treating root canal issues. A highly personal approach can lead to better patient outcomes. Using imaging techniques, biofilms can be extracted and treatment failure can be reduced.


Surface Topography-Adaptive Robotic Superstructures for Biofilm Removal and Pathogen Detection on Human Teeth



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