Dental Hackathon

Eager minds, young and old alike, gathered in the beautifully designed and conveniently located Idea Café on the ground floor of Marena Sports Centre. Each visitor was greeted with an atmosphere that buzzed with enthusiasm as participants formed alliances and bridged the gap across engineering and health sciences.

The event was kick-started by an inspiring speech by the Dean of the Manipal College of Dental Sciences, Dr Keerthilatha Pai, who brilliantly highlighted the importance of interdisciplinary events and congratulated the efforts of Manipal University Chief Innovation Officer, Dr Arun Shanbhag, and Dr Shruti Acharya from Dept. Of Oral Medicine and Radiology on bringing students and teachers together and organizing the first ever Dental Hackathon.

The Pro Vice-Chancellor Dr Poornima Baliga stressed on the importance of working across disciplines and of grabbing every opportunity to showcase your skills. Dr Arun Shanbhag and Dr Shruti Acharya then introduced the mentors for the event, a group of individuals ranging from doctors to engineers, well accomplished in their fields. Their main purpose was to help participants navigate the trickery of choosing the right problem and arriving at a solution while coordinating with your fellow team members.

The rules were simple enough: a team of 5 must include at least one junior and one engineer. After 4 days they must be able to present their idea and product in under 4 minutes with or without any demonstration.

After that a quick round of ‘What Ifs‘ started, where anyone could approach the audience and present an idea or problem in under a minute. This was an excellent way to look for future team members and engineers from specific fields. Some of the ideas presented were :

  • revolving mouth mirror for full visualization.
  • app to help to brush in younger kids (with cartoon)
  • premeasured toothpaste dispenser for adults and kids.
  • Cheaper computer controlled model for local anaesthetic application mainly to eradicate the fear and pain of injections.
  • improve oral health status by using a chewable candy or lozenge.
  • instrument to remove the broken instruments from root canals.
  • Lights that come from the gloves used by dentist thereby eliminating the need for overhead light and hence reducing chances of contamination.
  • Intraoral blood vessel locator.

The participants then spent the rest of the day networking and clearing doubts with mentors. Ideas were beginning to seem like realities and teams were being formed.

Dr. Arun Shanbhag, one of the brains behind the Dental Hackathon spoke to MTTN.

Interviewer: How did this Hackathon come to be? How did you get in touch with a professor from MCODS?

Dr Arun: We’ve organized countless hackathons across Manipal. And one thing I’ve seen is that no matter what field of problems that the event tackles, there was a huge number of dental students who showed up, even from the Mangalore campus. At one such event, Dr Shruti herself was a participant. And that’s where she approached me and suggested having an event like this purely for dentistry. MCODS students not only participate in such events, but they also win awards.

Interviewer: Based on the initial response on the first day, what do you think this means for the Hackathon?

Dr Arun: I am very pleased. I expected about 40 to 50 students to show up. But we have reached the three-digit mark today! We actually had to close registrations because we could only accommodate so many people here at the Idea Café.

Interviewer: Will this event be held again?

Dr Arun: If interest is expressed, I don’t see why not. The more colleges we involve, the better. Our main aim is to hold 3 hackathons every semester. We want to inspire as much as innovation as possible. Our next hackathon is a venture with architecture students, dealing with sustainable shelters.

The sun rose early on Day 4 of the dental hackathon greeting participants of the 19 teams gathered in the Idea Cafe located in Marena.

Teams had to present their products in under 4 minutes and then answer questions from a panel of judges in 2 minutes. The judges for the event were: Dr Gayathri Raja (periodontist), Dr Manish Thomas (CEO at Manipal- Government Manipal Karnataka Bioincubator), Dr Krishnanand Prabhu (Professor and Head of Biochemistry at KMC Manipal), Dr Someshekar Bhat (Associate Director of Development at MIT) and Dr. Arun Shanbhag (Chief Innovation Officer).

Among the 19 teams presenting, there emerged 3 winning teams who would receive seed money on Founder’s Day (April 30th) and 3 teams who earned a special mention. These teams would receive half the seed money as received by the winning teams.

The three winning teams were:

  • TNC RETRACTOR: This team proposed a model that helps in tongue and cheek retraction without causing any lacerations. All the dentist has to do is place the contribution in the oral cavity, thereby freeing both hands for dental procedures.
  • WISH YOU A HEALTHY JOURNEY: This idea received quite a few nods from the audience and judges. The team presented a chewable and edible candy to promote oral hygiene in the fourth most heavily used transport system in the world: Indian Railway system. Since the Indian Railway System falls under the central government, it is easy to distribute the candy to the 11 million passengers travelling daily via dispensers in each coach. Unlike mouthwashes, spit the candy is chewed, swished and then swallowed thereby making it user-friendly. Among the ingredients used is liquorice, which is a natural non-carbohydrate sweetener that does not cause tooth decay like normal sugar-based candies. Such a product does not exist as yet and has great potential.
  • LUMOS: this team came up with the novel idea of self-lighting gloves. The target customers would be the public health dentistry sector where dental professionals come across more than 100 patients a day and work in conditions with poor light and low visibility. Dentists will have to wear a primary glove that has an attached battery on the wrist from where the light shines from the index and middle finger. A secondary glove will have to be worn on top of the primary glove. This secondary pair of gloves will have to be changed for each patient. This reduces the wastage of time, especially while working in camps and improves visibility in distal regions of the mouth.

The teams that received a special mention were:

  • VACUSOL: In routine dental procedures there is a lot of aerosol production causing infection and spread of diseases. To combat this, a product that works using vacuum was proposed. It is placed about 6 inches away from the patient’s mouth and immediately sucks up the particles produced. It is made up of autoclavable material thereby making it reusable.
  • ORTJIG: This is a construction that helps measure the upper incisal angle. Normally, patients undergoing orthodontic treatment would require countless radiographs wasting money and time. With this device, in 2 minutes, the dentist can measure the angle and rectify the error immediately thereby eliminating time wastage and ensuring a quick treatment.
  • REMIX: One of the most widely used dental materials are elastomers. Usually, a plastic tip is used to mix the 2 components of the material that can be used once, since it is difficult to clean. It is also made up of plastic making it brittle. This team came up with a brilliant solution of using metal tips with 2 components that can be separated and cleaned easily making it sterilizable and re-usable.

-Written by Andrea Gonsalves

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