A new invention stands to revolutionize the work of dentists and dietitians. The so-called “smart tooth” monitors an individual’s oral habits by recording gross and minute movement of the jaw. Developed by researchers from the National University of Taiwan, the innovation will allow doctors to track chewing, drinking, eating, coughing, and even smoking.

Given that all oral activity is accompanied by a signature jaw movement, the “smart tooth” could benefit virtually all areas of healthcare. According to the researchers, a doctor treating a patient with breathing difficulties could use the data to derive a respiratory profile. In addition, physicians and dietitians could use the sensor to determine whether a patient is deviating from the treatment, lying about smoking, or eating a particular food.

“The human mouth is one part of the human body that is always in constant use. We use our mouth to perform some of the most important daily functions, such as eating, drinking, speaking, coughing, breathing and smoking,” the researchers explain in an accompanying study. “Because the mouth is an opening into human health, this oral sensory system has the potential to enhance existing healthcare monitoring applications such as dietary tracking.”

According to The Daily Mail, the device can be used detachable fake tooth or inserted in a crown. Once installed, the small motion sensor registers movement of the jaw. The data is then fed to a computer, which interprets the pattern and pairs it with an oral action.

To test the device, the researchers enrolled eight volunteers in an experiment. The subjects were then asked to perform one of four 30-second tasks: chewing gum, reading out loud from a book, drinking a bottle of water, or coughing. The “smart tooth” was able to determine what action each subject performed with 94 percent accuracy.

Trevor Johnson, of the Faculty of General Dental Practice of the UK, told The Daily Mail that the implement could also be used to determine subconscious and nocturnal behavior that the patient cannot estimate him or herself.

He told reporters, “this could have a number of uses in dentistry, for example as a research tool, for monitoring patients who clench or grind their teeth and for assessing the impact of various dental interventions.”

Source: Cheng-Yuan Li, Yen-Chang Chen, Wei-Ju Chen, Polly Huang, Hao-hua Chu. Sensor-Embedded Teeth for Oral Activity Recognition. 2013.