Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
A remote-controlled magnetic toothpaste and toothbrush that injects antibacterial solutions into the nooks and crannies of gums and teeth may soon be on the market, thanks to new nanotechnology developed at the University of New Mexico.
The product is still in development, but a newly formed startup company, MNT SmartSolutions LLC, is working to put it on store shelves in the next few years. Once available to consumers, it could “revolutionize” the oral care industry, which has remained unchanged for as long as people can remember, according to company executives and the research team that created it.
That team, led by nanomaterials engineer Leisha Armijo-Martin, includes current and former UNM biologists, toxicologists, pharmaceutical and environmental scientists, and research engineers from UNM’s Center for Advanced Technology Materials, A&M University of Texas at Corpus Christi and University of Bristol Dental. School in England.
The team wants to create a combination package of toothpaste and toothbrush that offers an interactive, nanotechnology-powered at-home dental care solution for shoppers that sits alongside Crest, Colgate and the like, Armijo-Martin said. .
“This could replace today’s toothpaste on store shelves, where we’ve seen the same toothpaste and toothbrush for 50 to 100 years,” Armijo-Martin told the Journal. “It would be a smart, interactive toothpaste and toothbrush that shoppers could choose as they walk down the aisle.”
The product is based on non-toxic, environmentally friendly nanoparticles, which, when combined with iron oxide, have highly magnetic and anti-bacterial properties, said Armijo-Martin. This nano material is the “secret sauce” that is incorporated into the toothpaste, which is then washed normally through the teeth and gums.
The toothbrush, however, is designed to create a remote-controlled electromagnetic field that can be turned on and off. Once activated, it pulls the nano-particles embedded in the toothpaste down into the gums, cavities and hard-to-reach crevices between the teeth.
Once applied, the anti-microbial elements immediately attack bacteria and plaque formation in the mouth, with additional, sustained-release effects that target infected areas.
The remote-controlled toothbrush stays off until the paste has been applied to the teeth to avoid the magnetic balls collecting on the nano material before brushing.
“You turn off the remote control while the toothpaste is in the tube and while it’s on your teeth,” Armijo-Martin said. “Then you turn it on so that the electromagnetic field pulls the nanoparticles down the gum lines and along the teeth to reach previously unreachable areas.”
Nano particles specifically target bad bacteria.
“People like to use mouthwashes like Listerine, but that kills everything, including the good bacteria,” Armijo-Martin said. “It prefers to attack only the bad bacteria.”
This targeted impact comes from the polymer coating embedded on the surface of the nanoparticles. The coating is similar to the chemistry found in bad bacteria, which naturally produce a plastic film to protect their colonies.
“By engineering the magnetic particles with similar chemistry, the nanoparticles are attracted to the bacterial biofilm that forms,” said Armijo-Martin. “And they stay there while releasing anti-microbial compounds to create a lasting effect.”
Armijo-Martin discovered the antibacterial potential of magnetic nanoparticles while working to develop them as a courier for targeted medicine to deliver drugs directly to infections.
“We found that the nanoparticles had their own anti-bacterial properties,” she said.
This led to a thrust of research to study the direct use of the particles against bacteria, both to prevent and treat infection.
The technology can also be applied as a topical and internal anti-bacterial treatment for wounds, scrapes and infections. But MNT SmartSolutions is focusing first on the dental industry, which offers a large market with the potential for far-reaching impact to prevent and treat periodontal disease, gingivitis and cavities.
Periodontitis is a chronic inflammatory condition resulting from the persistence of bacterial infections of biofilms, or dental plaque, which is considered the 11th most common disease in the world. In addition to tooth loss, it is linked to many other health problems, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.
Direct consumer sales
The company will offer its technology directly to orthodontists, but its biggest impact may be in the direct-to-consumer market.
“People don’t like having their gums itched,” Armijo-Martin said. “It’s painful and expensive. With this, they can do it themselves at home to prevent tooth decay and gum disease.”
So far, laboratory tests on bacterial cell cultures, plus toxicity tests on human mammalian cells, have shown the technology to be effective and safe.
In May, the company received a $256,000 phase one grant from the National Science Foundation to begin mouse trials, said MNT SmartSolutions Chief Financial Officer John Chavez.
“We’ve done all the bench work through in-vitro testing,” Chavez told the Journal. “NSF funding allows us to move to control tests with mice. This work started in June.”
When the mouse trials are complete, MNT will seek an NSF Phase II grant to conduct more testing in other animals, before moving on to human clinical trials to achieve US Food and Drug Administration approval. yes, Chavez said.
The full process can take four or five years before the technology moves to market.
MNT is one of 15 local companies formed by the New Mexico Startup Factory, which began 10 years ago to commercialize new technologies from the state’s research universities and national laboratories. Chavez is president of Startup Factory, which recently signed a license agreement to commercialize MNT technology with UNM’s Rainforest Innovations, which manages all of the university’s technology transfer and economic development programs.
Chavez sees great potential for MNT.
“We have a cadre of researchers with a lot of experience in the world of oral care from New Mexico, Texas and England working on this,” Chavez said. “The dental care industry offers a huge market for new products because there hasn’t been much modern innovation for many years.”