In past a retainer could be defined as a piece of plastic and metal custom-made for each individual
child in order to correct a variety of problems.
Today, an experimental device is letting paralyzed people drive wheelchairs with the help of a dental retainer and a tongue piercing with a magnetic tongue stud.
In 2009, Georgia Institute of Technology electrical engineers began clinical tests on a dental retainer that people with spinal cord injuries can manipulate with their tongue to maneuver an electric wheelchair.
The Tongue Drive System lets users wear a dental retainer embedded with sensors that track the location of a tiny magnet attached to the tongues of users. This is achieved by giving participants a “clinical” tongue piercing and tongue stud containing a tiny magnet embedded in the upper ball, according to wired.co.uk
“Having a technology that is completely hidden from sight — that’s a huge advantage,” Maysam Ghovanloo, the Georgia Tech biomedical engineer leading the development of the Tongue Drive System told usatoday.com
He said he expects the tongue-driven device to eventually cost between $6,000 and $8,000 — three to four times the cost of a sip-and-puff system, through which a wheelchair responds to four commands delivered with its driver’s breath.
Now if only researchers could embed a tracking device into the retainers of middle schoolers everywhere to avoid the inevitable cafeteria trash can search.