Feeling sick? Doctor’s may one day check your tooth to figure out what’s wrong.
A so-called “tooth tattoo” is being fashioned by Princeton University scientists that could be used to analyze bacteria on a person’s breath and allow doctors to detect potential illnesses.
A wireless sensor made out of graphene — described as a layer of carbon just one-atom thick — would be adhered to the tooth’s surface just like a removable tattoo.
“In principle, the graphene can be tailored to detect a range of different things,” said team leader Michael McAlpine, according to a recent Princeton report about the research. “It can be configured to detect DNA or certain viruses. Here, we detect a single bacterium.”
McAlpine said the team has experimented with a cow’s tooth, and when a student breathed on the sensor, a computer picked up the molecules on his breath.
The bacteria detected during tests has been known to cause surgical infections or lead to stomach ulcers, the report said.
While consumers won’t be able to get the sensor “tattooed” onto a tooth any time soon, researchers eventually want to license and commercialize the technology. But that requires a sustainable prototype that can’t be easily damaged, particularly when people brush their teeth.
“Ideally, you want something that would be there for a while,” McAlpine reportedly said. “We have a ways to go before we could master that.”