The human mouth is almost always in use due to activities such as eating, drinking, talking and breathing. This constant use of the mouth makes it a valuable source of health information about the entire body which is why a team of researchers from National Taiwan University developed a sensor to monitor oral activities. The sensor can be fitted to a single tooth by straddling it or fitted inside of an artificial tooth.
A Wearable Device
The research team presented this device at the International Symposium on Wearable Computers in Switzerland this past September. This sensor uses an accelerometer to monitor different oral activities and transfers the data to a computer with tiny wires. The research team says that in the future the device will report data wirelessly via Bluetooth. The motivation behind the sensor according to the researchers is the idea that each oral activity has “a unique teeth motion” that the sensor can measure which would create “classifiers” to categorize the different oral activities based on jaw movement.
The researchers fitted eight volunteers with the sensor to test its accuracy. The volunteers performed various oral activities such as coughing, eating, and talking while the data gathered by the sensor was used to create personal profiles of each volunteer’s oral activities. The volunteers were then asked to repeat their activities while the sensor tried to distinguish the activities from each other. The tooth sensor was accurate in recognizing the oral activity over 93% of the time when using a profile of activities created for each specific person. This accuracy fell to 59.8% when the sensor used a more universal profile not specific to a single person. Researchers believe that this accuracy can be improved by “extending the training set to include different sensor placements and oral activity types.”
Purpose of the Research
The ultimate purpose for this sensor is to collect information that could be useful to dentists, doctors, and other scientists regarding tooth grinding, eating and drinking habits, and stress levels. The researchers also made sure to emphasize the safety requirements of the sensor with sealed electronic parts that allow the sensor to pass through the body harmlessly if swallowed. They are currently working to improve the sensor and hope to have a wireless version available soon that can be fitted to a standard crown. The team believes that this development would make tooth sensors part of the standard health monitoring procedure in both dental and health offices.