“Smart Teeth” May Be Able to Track Your Dental Habits
First smart phones, and now smart teeth? A team of Taiwanese scientists have developed a tooth that uses an electronic device to detect oral activities like chewing, drinking, coughing and speaking. The purpose is to track eating habits and other “mouthy” routines that could affect someone’s long-term health. For instance, a doctor could track an overweight patient to see if he’s sticking to a diet or a breathing-impaired patient to see if he’s smoking or having respiratory problems. A dentist, meanwhile, could track a patient with tooth grinding issues to see if he’s breaking his habit or if he’s grinding the night away.
Researchers from the National Taiwan University in Taipei developed a fingernail-sized sensor that they glued to a tooth in each of eight study participants’ mouths. Wires connected the sensors to a data-tracking device that logged information for the participants, who were each asked to do four things: chew gum, drink water, read out load and cough. The device interpreted the unique tooth motion of each activity and was able to correctly identify which activity was being performed 94% of the time. Knowing what the mouth is doing, of course, is necessary to monitor and analyze activity, whether it be eating, smoking, drinking, coughing, grinding or breathing.
It should be noted that the sensors used in the study were basic prototypes. The plan is for the finalized version of the sensor is to embed it in a removable artificial tooth that is Wi-Fi-enabled, allowing data to be gathered and analyzed via smartphone. The researchers envision the tooth being taken out daily to disinfect, recharge and store, utilizing a battery recharge station similar to those used by electronic toothbrushes. Another possibility is finding a way to make the sensor small enough to fit inside a crown or cavity so the patient doesn’t have to use an artificial tooth.
The Taiwanese report mentions several other similar “oral sensing technologies” that are in varying stages of development and could prove to be inspirational to the “smart tooth.” These include the Tooth Tattoo sensor that “can detect respiration and bacteria in saliva,” the X2 xGuard mouth guard sensors that track impacts to an athlete’s head, and dentures fitted with sensors that analyze how the tongue and teeth interact when speaking. As for the smart tooth, the research team is currently working on the next prototype, focusing on improved accuracy and safety.
You’re move, Google Glass.
(Sources: Department of Computer Science and Information Engineering at National Taiwan University, The Daily Mail)