This ‘Smart Tooth’ Can Track Everything You Eat

Way easier than a food journal.

This 'Smart Tooth' Can Track Everything You Eat
Photo courtesy of SilkLab, Tufts University

How about instead of weighing our food and trying to figure out what a single serving size of potato chips is, we just have our mouths tell us? The future is here, kids, and it looks a lot like a diamond-studded tooth.

Engineers at Tufts University have developed an itty bitty tooth sensor that can track glucose, salt and alcohol, and wirelessly transmit the data to an electronic tracking device.

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The tiny sensor, which measures just 2 square millimeters, has three layers: a central “bio-responsive” layer that absorbs the nutrient and/or other chemicals to be detected, and two outer layers consisting of two square-shaped gold rings. “Together,” says Tufts, “the three layers act like a tiny antenna, collecting and transmitting waves in the radio-frequency spectrum.”

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According to Tufts:

Previous wearable devices for monitoring dietary intake suffered from limitations such as requiring the use of a mouth guard, bulky wiring, or necessitating frequent replacement as the sensors rapidly degraded. Tufts engineers sought a more adoptable technology and developed a sensor with a mere 2mm x 2mm footprint that can flexibly conform and bond to the irregular surface of a tooth. In a similar fashion to the way a toll is collected on a highway, the sensors transmit their data wirelessly in response to an incoming radiofrequency signal.

Currently, the prototype is only sensitive to glucose, salt and alcohol, but researchers are working to develop a version that can detect a wider range of chemicals and nutrients.

“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., corresponding author and the 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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