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Researchers develop customised 3D-printed toothbrush handle for patients with limited dexterity


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Oral self-care can empower patients who have limited manual dexterity; however, it is essential that oral care products can be used easily. (Image: ovnelli/Shutterstock)

SANGAREDDY, India: A team of researchers from universities in India has developed a method of fabricating a customised, interchangeable handle for tooth cleaning products for patients having limited manual dexterity. The 3D-printed handle brings cost-saving advantages and could improve the oral health and quality of life of patients having restricted hand and finger movement, such as stroke survivors, elderly patients and those with arthritis.

A technical report summarising the research explained that patients with diminished manual dexterity face greater challenges when it comes to maintaining their oral health and that these challenges can be compounded by impaired sensory and masticatory function. Oral self-care can empower these patients and prevent the onset of oral diseases; however, it is essential that oral care products can be used easily.

Researchers in India have developed a customised and interchangeable 3D-printed handle for tooth cleaning products for patients with limited manual dexterity. (Image: Dr Shreya Colvenkar et al./Cureus)

The researchers developed a simple technique whereby silicone putty impressions of the patient’s grip are made manually and then used to 3D-print a customised handle using polylactic acid. The handle features the patient’s name, is durable and costs approximately INR2,500 (€31) to produce. The technique used is simple and requires less time than other techniques do. The handle can be used interchangeably to hold a toothbrush or an interdental brush and reused with different toothbrush designs and is, therefore, cost-effective.

Modifications of toothbrush handles for patients having limited manual dexterity are mentioned in existing literature; however, the researchers emphasised the need for modified handles to be customised to the patient’s hand.

Corresponding author Dr Shreya Colvenkar, professor in the department of prosthodontics at MNR Dental College and Hospital in Sangareddy, told Dental Tribune International (DTI) that the 3D-printed two-in-one customised handles will improve the oral health of patients having limited manual dexterity. She said that elderly people and other patients having limited finger and hand movement need extra help to maintain good oral health and that being able to do so reduced dependency on others and brought a sense of empowerment. “Although caregivers can help in such a situation, maintaining their own oral hygiene by self-brushing can increase patients’ self-esteem,” she explained, adding that it was very much necessary to have a design that properly fits in the patient’s hand in order to improve the quality of brushing.

Dr Colvenkar told DTI that the research team was waiting for expressions of interest from manufacturers and researchers so that the 3D-printed handle can be made available and benefit the population.

In their report, the authors emphasised: “To maintain good oral care, the focus should be on preventing oral diseases and reducing the need for comprehensive dental treatment. The final objective should focus on maintenance and self-care to improve quality of life.”

The report, titled “Individually modeled 3D printed toothbrush and interproximal brush handle with name for patients with limited manual dexterity”, was published online on 21 July 2022 in the Cureus Journal of Medical Sciences.

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