Using robots to improve dental care

How can robots be used to advance the research and testing stages of veterinary product development?

18 January 2018, at 11:29am

Robotics could help to shape the future of veterinary practice in many different areas, from the classroom to the operating theatre. Researching and testing new products in the development stages is one way that robots are already being used to help advance animal healthcare. We asked Mars PetCare about their ‘chewing robot’, which was created in a bid to further improve canine oral care.

What is the key use?

The robot is a new generation of testing capability for oral care and is used to provide unique insights into how potential new products or prototypes are performing when it comes to plaque removal.

What problem does it solve?

Using a scan of a real canine mouth and jaw, the 3D-printed model replicates the normal mastication action of a dog and the pressures it might exert on a dental chew, such as Pedigree Dentastix.

This allows the Mars scientists to comprehensively and rapidly test the effectiveness of different product materials and shapes. The team can hone and re ne products at a much earlier stage in the research and development process. The extensive research and development process helps vets recommend with confidence – something that many vets say they find a challenge when it comes to dental products. 

How does it work?

By using the ‘chewing robot’ mechanism, we can analyse in detail how dental products work in a dog’s mouth. We do this by applying a plaque mimic to the robot’s teeth so we can observe its removal as the products are chewed. We then quantify the plaque removal to provide a measure of effectiveness; this is achieved by digitally analysing the plaque-mimic coverage and comparing before and after images. This new step means a product will be extensively tested for safety and efficacy before it reaches clinical trial, and most importantly, real dogs.

What do vets say about the product?

“A great standard of oral care can only be achieved if we vets can engage clients in a negotiation to achieve an outcome which is acceptable and realistic to vet, client and pet. In cases of poor compliance, other methods of preventive care can be successful for certain clients. Many vets will avoid directly recommending a specialist dental chew because of pre-conceived concerns, but with clear research and evidence showing the bene ts, there is a place for products such as Pedigree Dentastix Twice Weekly chews, when used correctly as part of a dental home care programme.” – Dr Rachel Perry, BSc, BVM&S, MANZCVS, DiplEVDC, MRCVS 

Learn more about the Chewing Robot and the research and development process at Mars: https://www. oral-health-r-d/ 

Senior Editor at Veterinary Practice

Jennifer Parker, BSc, PgDip, MSc, is a science writer and editor. She studied zoology, endangered species re-covery and palaeoanthropology in the UK. Jennifer was Senior Editor of Veterinary Practice magazine for almost three years; she left the publication in October 2019 to move abroad and pursue a freelance writing career.

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