A Mouthguard That Monitors Your Health

Wearable sensors may be the next step in personalized medicine.
Marsha Lewis, Contributing Producer

Wearable sensors may be the next step in personalized medicine.

(Inside Science TV) -- The next time you visit the doctor for a checkup, they may not need a vial of your blood. A sample of your spit might be all your doctor needs.

“Saliva is very rich," Patrick Mercier, an electrical and computer engineer at the University of California, San Diego, said. "It has lots of different chemistries inside and you can tell a lot about a person's physiology based on a simple saliva measurement."

Inside a Nanoengineering lab at UC San Diego, scientists have developed a mouthguard sensor that uses saliva, instead of a traditional blood sample, to look for changes in health markers throughout the body. The mouthguard contains a biosensor that is a first-of-its-kind sensor to take measurements through the mouth.

“It can be a very powerful diagnostic tool," Mercier said.

"It’s going to instantly give you the information about your health status,” said Jayoung Kim, a graduate student of materials science and engineering at UC San Diego.

The sensors can measure real-time changes in uric acid that can be found in saliva – high levels of uric acid can increase your risk for diabetes and can lead to gout.  Other sensors can read elevated lactate levels that can be associated with muscle fatigue – a performance concern for athletes.

The information can be delivered to a smartphone, smart watch or laptop. It could be a useful tool to monitor an athlete’s health during a game or look out for high-stress levels in soldiers in the field.

Researchers are working on refining and putting the finishing touches on the mouthguard, plus it needs testing to make sure it’s safe to wear.  

So whether you’re working or running, this wearable sensor means you can be out and about, and not stuck in the doctor’s office.

This work was supported by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of NIH (under Award Number R21EB019698) and by the Air Force Research Laboratory (through the FlexTech Consortium -LTR SUBK). The views and conclusions contained herein are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as necessarily representing the official policies or endorsements of the National Institutes of Health, Air Force Research Laboratory, or the U.S. Government. 


Author Bio & Story Archive

Marsha Lewis is a freelance producer based in California.  She has won 11 National Telly Awards and nine Regional Emmy Awards for her work in local and national syndicated news.

I’ve dedicated my time to reporting and producing stories focused on medical, science and technology. I created a nationally award winning series dedicated to promoting women and their great accomplishments.  Now I’ve taken that expertise outside the traditional TV news format and broadened the viewership to people around the world.