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Apple in Dental: What it Might Look Like

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In article from RockHealth, culminating in a meeting last year between senior Apple execs and the FDA, the author offers several signs that a potentially game-changing digital health product is on the horizon. Along with these precursors, we'll offer a side view of the possible impacts such innovations could provide in dental.

"The whole sensor field is going to explode," -Apple CEO Tim Cook

Apple CEO Tim Cook has indicated that wearables are an area of intense interest for Apple, labeling it as a ?key branch of the tree? for the post-PC world at D11 last year. Wearables are miniature electronic devices that are worn by the bearer under, with or on top of clothing. According to InformationWeek, the market for wearable sports and fitness-related monitoring devices is projected to grow as well, reaching 80 million device sales by 2016.

Dental Impact: In September 2013, Medical News Today published an article about a team from National Taiwan University that created a sensor that embeds within a single tooth. The sensor is so small that it can either fit inside an artificial tooth or straddle a real one. The device was presented at the International Symposium on Wearable Computers in Switzerland in 2013.

Intellectual property.

Apple has explored using personal area networks that would cover items such as the ?event monitor device? (EMD) that would include an adhesive strip, a processor, a detector, and a communications port. The patent provides an example of monitoring an individual?s heart rate for events over a threshold (e.g., 180 beats per minute).
Most recently, Patently Apple has uncovered a patent application for a medical app that can monitor physiological data (e.g., arrhythmias), and either store it on a device like an iPhone and/or transmit the data to health facilities via a communication network.

Dental Impact: Even thought it's more on the marketing end, X-Factor Applications' My Dental Companion, which is set to launch in June, is just one of the new systems putting the power into the hands of the patient. One of the features of My Dental Companion is the ability to share images of the patient's mouth and have the patient indicate areas of discomfort on the screen of their own smartphone or tablet. Introduce an embedded tooth sensor, such as the one previously mentioned, and now such mouth conditions or issues might be able to be wirelessly transmitted to the patient's device and then onto the dentist where they can be alerted.

Will Apple eventually enter the dental field with any wearables? Only Apple knows that answer. But as they make their mark in the medical industry, I don't think it would surprise anyone if, for example, they produced a patient bib that can transmit heart monitoring stats to alert a drilling dentist of patient pain thresholds.

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