An artificial tooth that monitors eating, drinking and smoking habits along with how often someone coughs and even spends speaking has been developed.
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By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent
10:32AM BST 31 Jul 2013
The tooth, which is designed to be worn much like an artificial denture, collects data on the movement of the mouth before transmitting it to a computer or smartphone.
The researchers behind the device plan to install a Bluetooth or Wifi transmitter that can send the information wirelessly.
They claim the device could be used to help doctors gather information about the behaviour and eating habits of their patients.
It could help provide information about how often an obese patient is really eating, for example, or help monitor a patient’s breathing.
The tooth, which looks like a normal molar but has an accelerometer embedded inside, could also be used to help people with speech defects or even to help train singers.
Hao-hua Chu, a computer scientist at the National Taiwan University who supervised the project, said: “The human mouth is one part of the human body that is almost always in constant use.
“We use our mouth to perform some of the most important daily functions, such as eating, drinking, speaking, coughing, breathing and smoking.
“Because the mouth is an opening into human health, this oral sensory system has the potential to enhance exiting oral-related health care monitoring applications such as dietary tracking.”
The prototype, which is fixed into the mouth during denture cement, currently uses thin wires to connect it to a computer.
It must also be taken out to be cleaned and to recharge the battery.
During the tests, the scientists also attached a safety string to the tooth to prevent any of the participants from swallowing it while they were wearing it.
They asked eight users to chew gum, drink, talk and cough to evaluate its accuracy for gathering data.
They found that it could classify activities with up to 93% accuracy.
However, the researchers say that each device would need to be calibrated to each person due to differences in the way their mouth moves when chewing and talking.