I have several patients who rely on a wheelchair for movement, including some that use a saliva ejector to control electronics on the wheelchair. A sipping action or a puffing action enables various commands such as forward and reverse. It is remarkable that such a simple device allows as much mobility as it does for these patients that suffer from spinal cord injuries.
Recently, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology discovered a way to increase the number of commands you can do for those people who do not have the use of their arms. It's called the Tongue Drive System. The basics consist of a tongue piercing, and a retainer with magnetic sensors. Depending on where you place your tongue, the sensors will detect up to six different commands. These commands are transferred to an iOS device that allows you to do everything from controlling a wheelchair to moving a cursor on the screen. Considering the simplicity of navigating an iPad, this represents a huge amount of functionality for the operator. All the circuitry is hidden against the palate, so no one would know you are even wearing the device. Considering the havoc normally caused by intra-oral piercings, this device would most certainly be advocated by dentists and parents alike.
The Tongue Drive System is still in clinical trials, but it may not be too far in the future that dentists will be able to take impressions for this whole new type of retainer.
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