How Do Astronauts Brush Their Teeth in Space?

NASA TeethMath, science, technology…your child may be getting the education they need to become a budding astronaut, but did you know good dental care is equally as important? May 2nd is Space Day so find out what your little rocket scientist needs to know about caring for their teeth. Learn from professionals and find out what astronauts do while they’re out in space.

Myths of Outer Space

Here you are, stuck down on Earth, filling your brain with important math equations and theories. But if you really want to reach the stars, you need to pay equal attention to your teeth.  The reason why may surprise you.

Many people believe astronauts lose bone density while in a zero gravity spacecraft. That is actually true, but scientists note that the loss is not substantial enough to affect the jawbone and tooth sockets.   The real danger is speed. Astronauts experience extreme conditions during launch and landing. Traveling at G-force speeds creates extreme pressure in the oral cavity so healthy teeth make a dramatic difference. Strong teeth and gums are essential to help the body more easily absorb intensive shocks.

Extreme Pressure

How much pressure are we talking about? During launches, astronauts are exposed to forces that are up to four times their own body weight. If an astronaut has not taken good care of his or her teeth, cavities could potentially loosen and fall out. Even sound fillings are a potential risk in space. Atmospheric changes are known to be more painful if cavities are present.  The trip back to Earth is equally as intense, as returning spacecraft typically enter the atmosphere at a speed of about 6.2 miles per second.

Floating Tubes of Toothpaste?

So how do astronauts brush their teeth in space? After all, there are no water facets in space to rinse with. And what about zero gravity? Does toothpaste squeeze out of a tube and then float into the air? We asked NASA scientists for answers. After all, down here in Houston, they’re almost our next door neighbors!

Leave it up to NASA scientists to figure out a few tricks to tooth brushing in space. Do you put the cap on your toothpaste tube after brushing your teeth in the morning? Astronauts don’t have to worry about that, because a toothpaste tube without a detachable cap is used. The space station is also equipped with small Velcro dots on the walls. Astronauts stick the toothpaste tubes to the dots so they won’t float away.  Of course, sinks and water are  not possible in space, so instead, a small bit of water is pushed through a straw from a bag. It is then used to dampen the toothbrush. Since there is no place to spit, astronauts just swallow. Does it sound complicated? NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao reports it’s actually one of the simpler tasks he performs up in space!

So if your Earthbound or headed for the stars, make sure your future astronaut brushes daily, keeping teeth healthy and strong.

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