02. Cleaning nanobots
For your teeth, hair & tattoos
This is “Intersecting Planes | Sci-fi vignettes” - an experimental newsletter of dreaming in prose.
At first the toothpaste companies put up a huge fight. Brushing your teeth at least twice a day was sacrosanct – completely unquestionable. “Toothbrush journeys” were even used as a term for something everyone did a few times a day - how could it be any different?
Like most things, few foresaw how much would change. The dental hygiene industry in its 20th century form didn’t exist until the late 1800s. It remained mostly unchanged for centuries. Could it be that big a surprise that it was ripe for disruption?
Nano-cleaning bots were first conceived when a few young engineers from BYU visited the Salt Lake City Natural History Museum and happened upon an exhibit on skin mites. It turns out that every person on earth has a set of mites that live on their skin from the day they are born until they die. These little animals live in hair follicles, eat dead skin and oil, and look very scary up close. They also are constantly cleaning our skin 24x7…
The engineers wondered: what if they could engineer little artificial mite-like robots for whatever purpose they chose? What if, for example, they could make little nanobots to clean our mouths?
It was admittedly an unappealing thought: who would want to put little machines in one’s mouth? What if something went wrong? Wouldn’t it be inconvenient? Where would the bots go?
After much iteration and substantial marketing, the little machines won out. A few years later, the team settled on a winning approach: as we now know, to clean one’s teeth we use nanobot stickers: every night before bed, we take out a sticker book filled with nanobots on the surface. We pull off one stick and lick it before going to bed. The bots move from the sticker into our mouths and overnight, the nanobots clean our teeth. They go into cavities between the teeth, they remove corrosive bacteria and break down remnant food. When the bots are done, they power off, drift into the stomach and decompose in the acid.
Once people got over the initial hesitation, the cost and convenience of never brushing teeth became the norm. Nanobot sticker subscriptions were here to stay and gone were the days of toothbrushes and toothpaste…
Over time of course, we’ve adopted the bots for other body parts (can you believe people used to rub shampoo into their hair?). We also hear that some companies are extending nanobots for tattoos: these bots seem to be larger and they reflect light, providing movable, temporary tattoos that can shift around the body. We can’t wait to try them out!
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