Grant given to create remote-controlled tooth cleaning tool

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Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi has received a $256,000 grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation to develop magnetic nanotechnology for use in at-home dental care products.

Led by Dr. Leisha Armijo-Martin, a nanomaterials engineer and nanotoxicologist, researchers are developing an interactive, remote-controlled toothpaste/toothbrush product that uses highly magnetic and antibacterial properties to target gums, cavities, and hard-to-reach crevices within the mouth.

"The project could revitalize an industry that, while growing, hasn't seen major changes in decades," the university said in a news release.

Armijo-Martin said the combination product is being designed to treat existing plaque and bacteria and is predicted to prevent the growth of harmful biofilms that are responsible for an estimated 80% of all microbial infections.

In addition, Armijo-Martin said the product could assist people with permanent or temporary wires or orthodontic devices, which are traditionally difficult to clean. Gingivitis and periodontitis, which are the most common gum diseases in adults, are linked to serious health conditions, including tooth loss, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and cardiovascular disease.

The team is currently using mice as test subjects, with testing so far revealing the product can wipe out infections with just one treatment, the researchers reported. Per U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations, the team will conduct testing on another mammalian species before they begin human clinical trials.

Pending approval by the FDA, Martin said the toothbrush/toothpaste combination could be marketed to adult-age orthodontic patients, to be sold in stores within the next two years.

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