Your dentist has always told you to brush your teeth regularly and soon your doctor may be saying so too. A smart toothbrush that can spot signs of deadly heart problems in saliva is being developed by scientists.
Spanish researchers believe a toothbrush that monitors vital signs will be a simple way to incorporate checks into patients’ daily routines.
People with heart problems could be prompted to adjust their medication by the toothbrush.
The same team has developed a shirt that monitors vital signs and says that a technological revolution will increasingly incorporate everyday objects into treatment. About half a million people in Britain have heart failure, in which the heart struggles to pump blood properly. It becomes more common with age and can result from damage to muscle tissue caused by a heart attack. The condition leads to a build-up of ﬂuid and researchers at Hospital Ramón y Cajal in Madrid believe that sodium levels in saliva could give an early warning of problems. They are also testing how well a toothbrush can monitor blood pressure and oxygen levels.
“With a little information about their heart rate, pressure and some biological samples from saliva, it is possible to execute some minor corrections that should help the patient to be as [healthy] as possible,” Alvaro Marco, a cardiologist, said.
He said that the toothbrush could help patients to do this themselves rather than wait for medical reviews. “If we see that our patients are in a high heart rate or pressure, we adjust the therapy according to it,” he said.
The brush is in development and Dr Marco said: “I am cooperating with a top-notch tech company which is trying to keep this new device as secret as possible [while] the engineering and designing phases are completed.” Colleagues at the same hospital presented results on an “intelligent shirt” which monitors people suspected of having abnormal heart rhythms.
At present patients are sent home wearing uncomfortable wires and patches, that must be kept on for at least a day. A study found that the shirt was less than half as likely to interrupt daily life. The study of 150 adults found that the shirt tracked patients 97 per cent of the time, while conventional systems managed 92 per cent because people were more likely to take them off.
A third more patients reported pain and discomfort on traditional monitoring, while twice as many reported disruption to daily life or mobility, according to results originally presented to the European Society of Cardiology. David del Val, important for their convenience but it also means we get a more consistent picture.”
Chris Smyth, Health Editor The Times and The Sunday Times