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  • Unique ‘chewing robot’ takes canine oral care research to the next level

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    Scientists at Mars Petcare have created a unique ‘chewing robot’ in a bid to further improve canine oral care and marking a milestone in dental product quality control.

    Developed by the scientists at the Global Innovation Centre, the chewing robot is the latest addition to Mars Petcare’s extensive research and testing stages for dental product development.

    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.

    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. This allows the Mars laboratory team to comprehensively, but rapidly, test the effectiveness of different product materials and shapes. Following this, the team can hone and refine product at a much earlier stage in the research and development process.

    Dr Phil McGenity, Global Pet Oral Care Technical Leader, Mars Petcare said the robot allows them to observe the effects of a dental chew much easier than in a real dog:

    “Typically, it’s very difficult to look inside the mouth of a dog while it’s chewing, but this robot allows us to assess products more rapidly than we’ve ever been able to in the past. It means we can continually improve the texture and materials in our products.”

    Dr McGenity explained the team use the robot to compare different textures and shapes of products by analysing how much ‘plaque’ is removed from the teeth from the robot’s “teeth” and the nature of that removal.

    “We apply a plaque mimic to the surface of the teeth, so we can observe how effectively different prototypes or textures remove this mimic. We take before and after images and, using computer analysis, we can accurately determine what percentage of plaque has been removed.

    “This robot has been extremely beneficial for us, to see just how visible the effects of our products, such as DentaStix™ Daily Oral Care, are.”

    Veterinary dentist John Robinson believes the chewing robot has huge potential in terms of refining dental products before they reach real-world trials.

    “One of the key benefits of the chewing robot is it allows a preliminary testing stage before you move into clinical trials. Clinical trials are lengthy and expensive, but the chewing robot means the product can be refined and improved to ensure optimum effectiveness.

    “Then you can move into the full clinical trial knowing it has already had extensive texture and plaque removal analysis.”

    He added that new research developments such as the chewing robot are vital to improving home dental care in dogs and giving vets the confidence to recommend dental chews to dog owners. Although brushing is regarded as the gold standard, he believes vets need to work more closely with owners to improve homecare via the use of dental products.

    “If we are going to deliver best dental and oral care for pets, we need a collaborative approach. Having the tools and products to help with homecare is part of that mix as well.”

    To help vets see how much research and development goes into their canine dental products, Mars Petcare has produced a short report explaining each stage of product development and testing. You can read the report on the WALTHAM website:

    To see the chewing robot in action, you can watch a video on the WALTHAM website:
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