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InFocus

Using robots to improve dental care

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

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.
waltham.com/waltham-research/oral-health-research/
oral-health-r-d/

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