Biofilm not fully cleared from the nooks and crannies of the root canal system remains a leading cause of treatment failure and persistent endodontic infections, and there are limited means to diagnose or assess the efficacy of disinfection. One day, clinicians may have a new tool to overcome these challenges in the form of microrobots.
In a proof-of-concept study, researchers from Penn Dental Medicine in the US and its Center for Innovation & Precision Dentistry (CiPD), have shown 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, enabling a more personalised treatment plan. The Penn team shared their findings on the use of two different microrobotic platforms for endodontic therapy in the August issue of the Journal of Dental Research.
In both platforms, the building blocks for the microrobots are iron oxide nanoparticles (NPs) that have both catalytic and magnetic activity and have been FDA approved for other uses. In the first platform, a magnetic field is used to concentrate the NPs in aggregated microswarms and magnetically control them to the apical area of the tooth to disrupt and retrieve biofilms through a catalytic reaction. The second platform uses 3D printing to create miniaturised helix-shaped robots embedded with iron oxide NPs. These helicoids are guided by magnetic fields to move within the root canal, transporting bioactives or drugs that can be released on site.