Smart toothbrushes could detect early signs of health problems and potentially prevent early deaths from heart disease, scientists have said.
Spanish researchers believe a toothbrush which can take information from saliva samples and accurately detect changes could be used to alert people if they are at risk of cardiac disease.
It is hoped the brush could spot those at risk of heart failure and get them to take urgent action.
The team believes that if the system works, it will become a routine method of incorporating major health checks into daily life, helping people and doctors recognise changes in health and allowing adjustments in medication.
In the UK around 200,000 people a year will suffer a heart attack, with about 70,000 people dying from them.
Heart attacks, in which the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked, become more common with age, and leave survivors with damaged heart muscle tissue, putting them at greater risk of another attack.
Cardiac disease, in which the heart struggles to pump blood properly due to its own blood supply issues, can raise sodium levels in saliva, which researchers at Hospital Ramón y Cajal in Madrid believe could provide an early warning of developing problems.
The team is also conducting tests to assess whether a smart toothbrush could monitor blood pressure and oxygen levels.
Cardiologist Alvaro Marco del Castillo who is collaborating with the research team on the design of the brush told The Times: “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.”
This project challenges the role of our current method of blood pressure monitoring.The researchers working on this toothbrush are looking to incorporate monitoring seamlessly into our daily routine. I found this interesting because research shows that there is a lack of urgency from a lot of people to monitor their blood pressure, especially for those who have never had an issue with hypertension in the past. However, heart complications can develop and worsen over time without someone even realizing if the condition is asymptomatic. These cases can lead to fatal or serious heart complications. A silent heart attack is one that occurs with little to no symptoms. These account for nearly 50% of all heart attacks and after a silent heart attack, the risk of having another heart attack, possibly symptomatic, increases.
With regularly monitoring blood pressure being not as big of a concern for the general public as it should be, devices or tools that monitor heart health while also adding little to no disruption into people’s daily lives is an effective solution.