Scientists Develop Tooth Sensors that Can Monitor Your Diet

Researchers from Tufts University have come up with a small sensor that can track the foods you are ingesting.

A new sensor has been developed that can track what you are eating -- and no, it doesn’t involve surveillance, intelligence operatives or robots.

The tiny sensors, which measure only 2 mm by 2mm, were created by a team of researchers from the Tufts University School of Engineering. The sensors are mounted directly to the tooth. Information about everything from salt, glucose and even alcohol consumption can be easily and efficiently collected. Best of all? This tracking happens in real time.

Not only are the wearables smaller and less bulky than previous sensors of the same kind, they are able to transmit this important data wirelessly thanks to the use of radiofrequency technology. The sensor is composed of three combined layers which together constantly cancel out, reflect back, and later transmit, various data that is collected. The innermost, central layer acts as an agent for simply taking in the chemicals and nutrients that come into contact with the sensor, while the other two layers towards the outside —in the shape of a pair of square gold rings, changes color in response to the spectrum of radiofrequency waves that reflect the foods in the mouth.

The result is comprehensive data generation from an intelligent sensor that sees all and knows all. Details about the sensor and the various tests performed appear in an articled, titled “Functional, RF-Trilayer Sensors for Tooth-Mounted, Wireless Monitoring of the Oral Cavity and Food Consumption”, which was published in the Advanced Materials journal on March 23, 2018.

Though this is not the first tooth sensor of its kind, this particular tooth sensor seems to offer the most comprehensive vision for tracking and maintaining overall health, compared to the previous technology. A wearable sensor developed back in 2013 by a team from National Taiwan University's Department of Science and Information Engineering and Department of Electrical Engineering was able to transmit data to dentists to help patients maintain better oral health.


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The result was providing clues to oral hygienists about habits which the patient may have been unaware of or felt uncomfortable to share with the dentist (In truth, how many among us can say they we disclose everything about our dental hygiene habits to our local dentist?) The sensor, significantly larger at about 11-12mm, could not be fitted on an existing tooth, but had to go over a separate artificial tooth.

The impact that a device like this could have for healthcare and medical professionals and researchers is significant.

"In theory we can modify the bioresponsive layer in these sensors to target other chemicals—we are really limited only by our creativity,” said Fiorenzo Omenetto, Ph.D. and paper co-author and Frank C. Doble Professor of Engineering at Tufts.


“We have extended common RFID [radiofrequency ID] technology to a sensor package that can dynamically read and transmit information on its environment, whether it is affixed to a tooth, to skin, or any other surface.”

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