What You Were REALLY Wondering During Interstellar…

Astronaut oral healthYou’ve almost certainly heard of Interstellar, the latest mind bender from Inception director Christopher Nolan. Maybe you even ventured out to see it, and as you left the theater three hours three hours later, you were undoubtedly wondering…

How the heck do astronauts brush their teeth in space?

Okay, so maybe that wasn’t the most mind-blogging unanswered question in the film, but it’s certainly worth taking a closer look. They can’t just walk to the sink and turn the faucet to wet their toothbrush, and can you imagine the mess made by a dollop of toothpaste in zero gravity? And what if the toothpaste cap floats away before you can secure it? Good thing the folks at NASA are so clever, says Dr. Todd Pizzi, a general dentist in Shrewsbury, MA.

For one thing, they provide special tubes of toothpaste with caps that don’t detach. They also use Velcro dots to secure their loose items to the walls of the space station. As for a sink, which isn’t an option on a spacecraft, astronauts use a bag similar to a juice pouch with a straw, which they use to squeeze water onto the brush and into the mouth. With no sink to spit in, they have no choice but to swallow. Hmm.

Why is it so important for an astronaut to have healthy teeth?

Here’s an interesting tidbit about the perils of going to work in zero gravity: It can cause loss of bone density. The good news for astronauts is that it doesn’t affect the teeth or jawbone. This leads us to a good reason why strong, healthy teeth and gums are must-haves for anyone who hopes to travel beyond our stratosphere. The physical stress of launching and landing is unlike anything on earth, and the mouth is subjected to serious G-force speeds and pressure. Without strong teeth and oral tissues, an astronaut’s mouth would be poorly equipped to absorb these intense shocks.

What do you mean by “intense”?

During a launch, the forces to which an astronaut is subjected can be quadruple that of their body weight. This means any filling could loosen and separate from the tooth! Really, though, the ideal candidate for space travel would have no fillings at all. Why? The intense atmospheric changes become much more painful in the presence of a cavity. And since a spacecraft may travel through the atmosphere approximately 6.2mi/sec on its return journey, you can imagine how uncomfortable that might be. Even if you aren’t being launched into space, a cavity can cause sensitivity to heat and cold, so it’s important to visit your dentist for a tooth-colored filling.

About Your Shrewsbury Dentist

To learn more about our services, or to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors, contact our Shrewsbury, MA dentist office at (508) 842-8838. We welcome residents of Shrewsbury, Boylston, North and South Grafton, Milford, and the surrounding communities.