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Fun Facts for Kids – Space: The Final Dental Frontier

May 1st, 2015

Down here on Earth we take for granted how easy it is to brush and floss our teeth, but for the astronauts on the International Space Station, dental care is no easy task.

Water is a precious resource in space and without gravity you can’t have running water; you don’t have a sink or a tap. So what do you do?

As it turns out, brushing your teeth in space is tricky, but the tools are the same as here on Earth. From the earliest Apollo flights to current modern space travel, an astronaut’s oral hygiene kit has always consisted of a basic toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste.

However, the actual act of brushing is a bit tricky, as Commander Chris Hadfield , the first Canadian to walk in space, demonstrates in the following video:

With the absence of gravity, getting water onto your toothbrush takes a bit more finesse, and toothpaste has to be spit into a towel instead of a sink.

Some astronauts have begun experimenting with edible toothpaste to further reduce water waste.

From Clayton C. Anderson, Former resident of the ISS for 152 days in 2007, 12 days in 2010:

“It is ABSOLUTELY okay to swallow your toothpaste while living in outer space!  I swallowed my Crest mint-flavored toothpaste at least 304 times during a 152-day stay in 2007.  Downing your spit –laced with the minty fresh flavoring from the toothpaste tube– may sound disgusting, but it actually can be considered as a “space-age after dinner mint!”

During earlier, short-term missions, dental health wasn’t a big issue because astronauts were only gone a week or two at most.

Now that we have much longer missions to the International Space Station, healthy mouths are a top priority.

Astronauts make regular visits to the dentist before any flight to treat any possible problems. Just remind your patients of this important fact if they think they skip their regular visits. If they want to grow up to be an astronaut they need to learn to love the dentist!

Moreover, since Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Romanenko developed a toothache on a 96-day mission and spent weeks in pain before returning to earth, tools for dental care have since been added to each crew’s emergency medical kit. Dental care is important, both here on Earth and up in space! Amazing!

 

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