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Robot and mechanical testing of a specialist manual toothbrush for cleaning efficacy and improved force control

BMC Oral Health. 2022 Jun 8;22(1):225. doi: 10.1186/s12903-022-02211-4.


BACKGROUND: Toothbrushes require flexibility to access all dental surfaces and remove plaque effectively, but they should also aim to prevent or limit overbrushing and consequent damage to teeth and gums. In two studies, the physical properties and cleaning performance of specialist test toothbrushes with flexible necks were compared to a reference rigid-necked toothbrush.

METHODS: In Study 1, a universal testing machine (Instron E 10,000) with a specially designed setup was used to test the deflection behaviour of toothbrush head and neck. Untufted toothbrushes were fixed in a custom holder and force was applied to the head while the deflection was measured. In Study 2, one control and five test toothbrushes were assessed using a robot system to simulate the cleaning of artificial plaque from defined surfaces of artificial replicated human teeth in a model oral cavity (typodonts).

RESULTS: Study 1 showed that the flexible-neck toothbrush deflected 2 to 2.5 times more than the rigid-neck reference toothbrush when same force was applied to the toothbrush head. Study 2 revealed that all five test toothbrushes showed statistically superior simulated plaque removal to the reference toothbrush. This superiority was observed for all test toothbrushes employing horizontal and rotating brushing action (all p = 0.001) but only three of the five toothbrushes when vertical brushing was employed (all p = 0.001). Cleaning efficacy of the test toothbrushes was demonstrated both interdentally and at the gumline locations. The Complete Protection toothbrush showed the most effective cleaning performance followed by the Repair and Protect and Rapid Relief toothbrushes.

CONCLUSION: The addition of a flexible-neck component to the toothbrush designs helped to reduce stiffness and may allow more effective cleaning compared to rigid designs with controlled force distribution on the teeth and gums. This may help to provide plaque control at all potential risk areas in an in vitro robot model and could support good oral hygiene in-use.

PMID:35676648 | DOI:10.1186/s12903-022-02211-4

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