Imagine a spy thriller where a satellite focuses on a house. The detailed optics give the ability to see every detail of the roof, down to the single autumn leaf caught at the edge of the gutter. Then it switches to infrared to see through the roof, identifying one spot in an otherwise empty room that’s just marginally warmer than the rest–your lost dentures are found!

That imagined scenario is nothing like reality, and it’s unlikely to ever be a reality. But that doesn’t mean that satellite technology might not soon be helping you find your lost dentures. That’s thanks to a partnership between a dental researcher and a high-tech firm focused on microsatellite devices.

A set of Satellites pointing to the air

A Dentist’s Insight

The project began with the experience of Dr. Stephen Shuman, a professor at the University of Minnesota who began his career working at a nursing home. Early in his time at the nursing home, the director showed him a bucket of dentures that had been separated from their owners. There was nothing he could do to help reconnect dentures to their owners.

Today, most dentures of nursing home patients are marked by dentists so they can be reunited with their owner if they’re found. But that only works if they’re found. Dentures can go missing in nursing homes and not be found for months or years, especially when patients have dementia and may not remember where they left their dentures. In the meantime, people who have lost their dentures may accuse people of stealing the dentures. And they need dentures, so these get replaced.

Replacing dentures is expensive, but it’s also a challenge for people who have to adapt to new dentures. Impacted by his early experience, Dr. Shuman wanted to try to find a way that lost dentures could always be found, quickly and easily.

And that’s where satellite technology comes in.

Orbital Tech in the Oral Environment

Advanced Space and Technology Research (ASTER) provides the technical insight for this endeavor. It’s a small company that sells small components for small satellites. Think of devices designed to fit inside a satellite the size of a shoebox.

So these devices are perfect for inserting into dentures. Although ASTER’s original focus was on GPS technology, the plan is simpler than putting a GPS tracker in dentures: it’s a basic transponder. The transponder will send out a signal when it receives a signal from a detector wand. The detector wand is designed to be small, economical, and adaptable for use with a smartphone. An app allows any smartphone to run the detector, which can be used to quickly track down dentures in any of the places they often get left, from a hall table to a potted plant! The current estimate is that the transponder would add a few dollars to the cost of dentures and the detection wand would cost a couple hundred dollars, while the app would be free.

Production Is Years Away

Although initial testing of the concept seems to be going well, it likely won’t be available for a while yet. The goal is to launch the project in two or three years. So how can you find your dentures in the meantime?

We offer a number of practical tips for avoiding lost dentures. The best way to avoid lost dentures is to just get dentures that never need to come out. Implant dentures can be made so that they’re permanently attached to your jaw, functioning like normal teeth and not needing to be taken out for cleaning.

If you want to learn more about implant dentures in Columbia, SC, please call (803) 781-9090 today for an appointment with a denture dentist at Smile Columbia Dentistry.