Miniature tooth sensor can monitor glucose, salt and alcohol levels

Researchers at the Tufts University School of Engineering have developed a miniaturised sensor which sits on the tooth and measures glucose, salt and alcohol intake.

The sensor, which is a mere 2mm in length and width, can flexibly bond to the irregular surface of a tooth.

It has been designed to monitor in real time how our bodies react to glucose, salt and alcohol and the researchers state that it could be invaluable in the context of healthcare of clinical studies.

The sensor is made from three layers, consisting of a bio-responsive layer that absorbs nutrients and chemicals and two outer layers made of gold rings. The three layers act as a small antenna, collecting and transmitting waves in the radiofrequency spectrum.

Previous devices for dietary monitoring have suffered from bulky wiring or from having to be frequently replaced as the sensors degrade.

The sensor works by transmitting data wirelessly in response to an incoming radiofrequency signal. When a radio wave hits the sensor, part of it is cancelled out and the rest is transmitted back.

However, the sensor is able to absorb and transmit a different spectrum of radiofrequency waves with varying intensity by changing its electrical properties, enabling it to detect and measure other nutrients.

Speaking about the device, Fiorenzo Omenetto, corresponding author of the study the Frank C. Doble professor of Engineering at Tufts, said:

“In theory we can modify the bioresponsive layer in these sensors to target other chemicals – we are really limited only by our creativity. 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.”

The researchers’ work is to be published in the journal Advanced materials. The team state that future adaptions of the sensor could be used to record a wide range of nutrients, chemicals and physiological states.

Reece Armstrong is a reporter for Digital Health Age. Coming from the North East of England, Reece has an MA in Media & Journalism and a BA in Popular & Contemporary Music from Newcastle University. Reach him on Twitter or email via:

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