Recent study has developed a new tooth mounted tracker which records what we are eating and is the next trend to be added to the list of health/fitness trackers
Different kinds of health and fitness trackers have been becoming very popular in the past decade. All categories of people are adopting these trackers, whether they are trying to lose weight, are trying to build extra muscle mass or are just normal people who take fitness and health seriously and also want to look good. Going to the gym has been popular, but now personalised methods like using fitness and activity trackers are a rage. Such heath and fitness wearables consist of watches and activity trackers which are just gadgets on the first glimpse but they are helping people to achieve their health and fitness goals. Many advanced functionalities are now being added to these wearable and almost all big technology companies are eyeing this market. The functions include which have been incorporated so far include monitoring of heart rate, calorie counters, counters for different kinds of physical activities. These sensors are now used by people in their day-to-day lives for monitoring their bodies – including heart rate, blood oxygen levels, blood pressure, sleep pattern and diet. Its remarkable how easy it has become to monitor our daily activities using these fancy gadgets.
A tooth-mounted nutrition tracker
Fitness monitors as wearables on wrists is surely not a new concept. A new study has went a step ahead by developing a wireless sensor, which can directly be mounted on a person’s tooth and it can exactly track and record what a person has eaten or drank in real time. This is really the next level of monitoring! The study published in Advanced Materials, describes this tooth mounted wireless sensoras a device which can transmit information about oral consumption by a person including his/her glucose or sugar, salt and alcohol intake. The size of this sensor stands at a tiny 2mm x 2mm and it is square in shape and it can flexibly conform and bind to the irregular surface of our tooth.Therefore, it comes in contact with whatever happens to pass through a person’s mouth. Once there is data available on this sensor, managing and interpreting this data can help us to identify the patterns of consumption for a person and it can really point out the improvements that can or should be made in that person’s diet regime so as to manage their health in a better way. Foremost, this sensor can keep an accurate log and thus can bring awareness about one’s nutritional intake as that is of supreme importance for health.
This sensor developed by researchers at Tufts University School of Engineering, USA is made up of three layers and looked like a custom microchip. The first layer is the “bioresponsive” layer,which is made up of silk fibres of water-based gels andhas the ability to absorb the chemicals being detected. This layer is installed between outer layers consisting of square-shaped two gold (or titanium) rings. All the three layers together actas a tiny antenna and collect and transmit waves (in the radiofrequency spectrum) based upon the incoming and allow the sensor to wirelessly transfer information about nutrients consumption to a mobile device. This transmission is achieved by using the powers of material science that lets the sensor shift its electrical properties depending on what chemical its layer comes into contact with. Example, if a person is consuming say a salty snack like nachos, the salt present in this food will cause the sensor to absorb and transmit a “specific spectrum and intensity” in the wave telling us that salt was consumed.
The authors say that such a device, though currently in its experimental stage, could have a variety of applications. This device would definitely have medical and lifestyle applications as it can track our nutrition and can help us to improve our health. Aggressive and efficient nutrition monitoring using such a device can definitely be a part of nutrition/diet management. Also, if this device can help sample and monitor analytes in one’s oral cavity then it can be useful for monitoring a person’s dental health.
Many wearable devices for monitoring dietary intake have earlier suffered from limitations because they either had bulky wiring or needed a mouth guard or required frequent replacement because the sensors generally degraded. This new sensor is a breeze design wise, however it can also last only for a day or two after its worn. Though the authors state that redesign is progressing and in the future new models might be built which can stay active for a longer time in one’s mouth. The future models could also be capable of detecting and recording a wide range of nutrients, chemicals and even physiological states of a person. The current sensor changes its colour based upon what nutrients or analytes are being sensed by it and this may not be so desirable. The most interesting aspect is that this sensor could very well be used anywhere else on another body part. It would only require some tweaking on which different chemicals to sense. So, technically it could be affixed to a tooth or skin or any other surface and it could still read and transmit information about its environment in real-time. However, the authors are also themselves unclear at this stage about what will be the exact cost of this sensor once its ready to buy and use and even that timeline is still not clear.
Tseng et al. 2018, “Functional, RF-trilayer sensors for tooth-mounted, wireless monitoring of the oral cavity and food consumption” Advanced Materials, Vol. 30, no. 18, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/adma.201703257