Ever wondered how astronauts brush their teeth in space? You can learn all about how this normal daily task is a little bit harder in zero gravity…
Brushing our teeth is one of the most routine, yet necessary, tasks we do on a daily basis. However, have you ever been standing at the sink cleaning your pearly whites and wondered how astronauts on the International Space Station and other vessels brush their teeth?
In some ways, the steps that astronauts need to follow to brush their teeth are just as routine as how we brush ours here on the terra firma. Other parts, however, are unusual and otherworldly to us land dwellers.
The Equipment Needed To Brush Teeth In Space
Believe it or not, they use the same toothbrush and toothpaste that they use when they brush their teeth on earth (no freeze-dried toothpaste!). One consideration that is necessary when choosing a toothpaste tube is the lid.
Astronauts are encouraged to choose a toothpaste that has the lid attached to the tube instead of a screw-top lid.
The reason for this is simple: They don’t want their lid to float away while they’re brushing!
Also, a small quantity of water is required for toothbrushing. Here on earth, we simply open up the faucet and use the water directly from the sink. But a free-flowing sink could cause a multitude of problems in a zero-gravity environment. So instead, astronauts only use water from plastic pouches that they drink with a connected straw. This is a safety measure that prevents water from floating away and landing on any electrical equipment.
How Do Astronauts Brush Their Teeth In Space?
Chris Hadfield, commander of the International Space Station, recently dished on the ins-and-outs of their daily routine.
Astronauts start by attaching their tube of toothpaste to the wall. Then, they take their water pouch and squeeze a drop of water onto the brush to dampen it, followed by a small amount of toothpaste. After their toothbrush is readied, they brush their teeth just like they normally would if they were home on earth.
Now that their teeth are clean and sparkling, what do they do with the toothpaste?
Believe it or not…they have to swallow it! Because there’s no sink to spit into, this is their only option. No doubt, this has to take some getting used to! Then, they take another drink of water to cleanse their mouth of any leftover paste and swallow that as well.
The final order of business is to squeeze another small amount of water onto the toothbrush and clean the brush with a towel. In the end, the process is very close to toothbrushing on earth. The lack of gravity is the main issue that complicates the process.
Keeping Your Teeth Clean Wherever You Are
Whether brushing your teeth is a celestial or terrestrial job, don’t forget that good oral hygiene is vitally important.
Astronauts are required to go through a thorough dental evaluation before they’re launched into space, and those of us who’ll never reach the stars should remember that we need to have our teeth professionally cleaned and checked every six months.
No matter where you call home, good oral health is important!
Image was sourced from the NASA Image and Video Library. The media usage guidelines give explicit permission for this image to be used for web pages.