Tooth “Tattoos” May Help Detect Disease

Posted on July 18, 2013 in General oral health

Just when you thought you'd seen every type of tattoo out there, a new version is on the horizon. This one, however, could help prevent pain instead of causing it.

Researchers at Princeton University are working on a technology that “tattoos” – no needles involved – a graphene sensor onto tooth enamel. The sensor is actually printed on a strand of silk. The silk dissolves in water while the sensor stays put. The sensor can then monitor the bacteria levels present in the mouth and alert the dentist when these levels become too high. By detecting abnormal amounts of bacteria in the early stages, the sensor could help dentists diagnose certain diseases before they become unmanageable. Gum disease is a target, of course, but mouth bacteria can also predict a number of other illnesses, from stomach ulcers to AIDS.

So far, the technology has only been tested on cows. Researchers are hoping that the end result will not only have implications for dental health, but also overall health. For example, it could detect bacterial infections in wounds or bacteria on surfaces in hospitals.

It may be years before this groundbreaking technology is available to the public, but one thing is for certain: This is one tattoo you won't regret in 10 years.