Nanodentistry - The Future

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The late Nobel Prize winning Physicist Richard P Feynman in 1959 proposed using machine tools to make smaller machine tools, which in turn, would be used to make still smaller machine tools, and so on, all the way down to the molecular level. Such nanomachines, nanorobots and nanodevices ultimately could be used to develop a wide range of atomically precise microscopic instrumentation and manufacturing tools. Attempts are going on at present to produce molecular computer components using molecular parts at the nanometer (10-9 meter or 1 billionth of a meter) scale.

Nanotechnology will have future medical applications leading to the emergence of nanomedicine and nanodentistry. Nanodentistry will make it possible to maintain a near perfect oral health through the use of nanomaterials, biotechnology, including tissue engineering and nanorobotics. The nanorobotic functions may be controlled by an onboard nanocomputer that executes preprogrammed instructions in response to local sensor stimuli.

Local anaesthesia: In the era of nanodentistry, to induce local anaesthesia, dental professional will instill a colloidal suspension containing millions of active analgesic micrometer sized dental nanorobot particles on the patientís gingivae. After contacting the surface of the crown or mucosa, the ambulating nanorobots reach the dentin by migrating into the gingival sulcus and passing painlessly through the lamina propria or the 1-3 micrometer thick layer of loose tissue at the cemento dentinal junction.

On reaching the dentin, the nanorobots enter dentinal tubule holes that are 1-4 micrometers in diameter and proceed toward the pulp, guided by a combination of chemical gradients, temperature differentials and even positional navigation, all under the control of the onboard nanocomputer, as directed by the dentist.

Orthodontic treatment: Orthodontic nanorobots could directly manipulate the periodontal tissues (gingiva, periodontal ligament, cementum and alveolar bone), allowing rapid and painless tooth straightening, rotating and vertical repositioning within minutes to hours.

Natural tooth maintenance: The appearance and durability of tooth may be improved by replacing upper enamel layers with covalently bonded artificial materials such as sapphire or diamond, which have 20 to 100 times the hardness and strength of natural enamel.

A subocclusal dwelling nanorobotic dentifrice delivered by mouthwash or toothpaste could patrol all supragingival and sub gingival surfaces at least once a day, metabolizing trapped organic matter into harmless and odorless vapors and performing continuous calculus debridement.

Dentirobots could identify and destroy pathogenic bacteria residing in the plaque and elsewhere, while allowing the 500 or so species of harmless oral micro flora to be maintained in a healthy ecosystem. With this kind of daily dental care available from an early age, conventional tooth decay and gingival disease will disappear.

Ref: JADA Oct.2000

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