Can Your Tooth Become SMART?

Smart Teeth Can Become the Future To Detect Disease

While most everything else today is becoming “smart,” some researchers have decided it is time to develop smart teeth. Of course, this means it has electronics in it, and it has the funding of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) behind it. The goal of the tooth is to have it reveal changes taking place in the mouth. 


What It Will Detect

The purpose of the smart tooth is to use it to collect certain information about the status of conditions in the mouth. The designers are looking to use it in people who are high risk for problems such as diabetes and periodontitis. It can also be used to detect conditions for other diseases as well.

Although additional purposes can be added later, the researchers are currently designing the tooth to collect information about peptides that are specific to periodontitis. The sensors work by detecting them in the saliva. 


The Developers

The project is being developed by researchers working at two schools at the Washington University in St. Louis – the School of Medicine and the School of Engineering & Applied Science. The NIH has given a grant of $1.4 million to the schools for a four-year program.

The reason for the development of a smart tooth is because there are more than 64 million people in the United States who currently have periodontal disease. About half of them have a genetic tendency toward the development of gum disease, which can make them more prone to it, and to develop it faster than others. 

It will transmit the data it has collected wirelessly, using ultrasound to a collection device. This device will then transmit it to a special medical data cloud. 


The Challenges

The researchers admit that there are a number of obstacles that they must overcome before the smart tooth can be successful. These challenges include:

  1. Finding the right process to detect the peptides – and which ones to target.
  2. How to refresh the detector’s bio-recognition elements. They become saturated quickly. 
  3. Where to place the device, which is apt to be only a few millimeters square. In the gums, a tooth, or in a denture?


Possible Applications

The researchers behind the smart tooth say that it could be used for many different purposes. Not only can it be used to track the status of a particular illness, but it can also be used to track the success of treatments for it. Many markers or indicators of various health problems are present in the mouth, and these could be used later to detect a number of health conditions. 


The Progress

The smart tooth is still years in the making. While a start has been made, the obstacles must first be cleared away. Once completed, you can be sure that many more applications will be found for it. 


About Periodontitis

Problems with the gums are often first noticed when they bleed. This is called gingivitis and it is the more mild form of gum disease. It is caused by an imbalance of the normal bacteria found in the mouth. The bad bacterium begins to multiply as plaque increases. 

If poor oral health continues – which is the primary cause – the inflammation in the gums becomes worse and pockets develop along the gum line. This stage is usually called periodontitis. These pockets are breeding grounds for the bacteria causing the problems and hiding below the gum line, they are out of reach of a toothbrush. 

The bacteria, when out of balance, produce an acid. It slowly destroys the enamel on your teeth, your gums and the supporting structures for your teeth, and even your jaw bone. Eventually, your teeth will become loose and fall out. 

Once the pockets have begun to form – and afterward – the treatment gets more complex – and costly. There are non-surgical methods, which involves scaling and planing. In this gum treatment, the dentist must go into the pockets and scape off the tartar and plaque – removing the bacteria and the places where they are most likely to hide.

In more serious cases, surgical methods of gum disease treatment are necessary. This involves removing the bacteria and sewing up the pockets so that the bad bacteria cannot establish colonies in them as easily, and may include gum grafts, and possibly bone grafts. 


Preventing Periodontitis

The key to avoiding these problems is proper care of your teeth. Plaque (the bad bacteria) will form on your teeth every day and it needs to be removed daily. Brushing your teeth at least twice will help, and flossing is also necessary to remove the food particles and plaque from between your teeth. 

Even after smart teeth have been successfully developed, it still will be up to you to take care of your teeth. Regular dental checks – twice a year – are still a very good idea to prevent gum disease. 

While smart teeth are not yet available, Dr. Kumar T. Vadivel, DDS, MS MBA FDSRCS, a Board-certified Periodontist, can help you with dental checkups and gum disease treatment. He often treats patients in all phases of the disease, as well as offering a full range of other dental services. He has offices in the Carrollton, Cedar Hill, Dallas and Grapevine, TX areas. For more information, or to set up an appointment, call his office today at (214) 731-0123.