Tooth ache is one of the more stupid and annoying disruptions to one's week. Dental hygiene can reduce the risk a lot, but only goes so far - for example, inflammation of roots of the tooth, with pus gathering underneath is something that just happens and you have about zero control over it, and without a dentist either releasing the pus through opening the root canal or removing the tooth altogether, the pain is simply debilitating and won't "go away" all on its own. At times old fillings fail, teeth can break, and generally that's one "mode of failure" of our bodies that can't be completely prevented or foreseen, but is fixable by a rather short and not overly complex medical procedure.

Besides obligatory dental hygiene (the edible toothpaste used by astronauts daily) how can astronauts deal with it? Aborting a mission due to tooth ache would be an awful waste. Do they have tools and training to extract one another's tooth? Or maybe some 'industrial strength' painkillers and antibiotics that would carry them through the remainder of the mission? Something else?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The risk of dental emergency on ISS may be reduced by selecting astronauts with very good dental health. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Oct 15 '17 at 9:21
  • $\begingroup$ Check out what the special forces do when situations like that occur... what things are in the first.aid box... $\endgroup$ – Solar Mike Oct 15 '17 at 11:40

As in all things ISS, the crew would turn to the appropriate checklist. In this case, the Medical Checklist.

Its table of contents contains these dentistry-related items:

enter image description here

Here's the first page of TOOTH EXTRACTION to give you an idea:

enter image description here

|improve this answer|||||
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Awesome! Low Earth Orbit Dentistry! $\endgroup$ – SF. Oct 15 '17 at 23:08
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ How do you find these things...? $\endgroup$ – SF. Oct 16 '17 at 1:05
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ You can bet that there would be lots of consultation with the ground before performing one of the listed procedures. The checklists come in handy when the ground is coming up with a plan to pass on to the crew. For example, guidance from the ground might direct the subject crewmember to follow checklist procedure such and such, with the following changes.... $\endgroup$ – Digger Oct 16 '17 at 1:43
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Also, at least one of the crewmembers for any ISS increment gets some level of rudimentary dental procedure training (as did I before STS-109). $\endgroup$ – Digger Oct 16 '17 at 1:44
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ There are definitely some interesting procedures in that medical checklist. BEHAVIORAL - ACUTE PSYCHOSIS-EMERGENCY, for one. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Oct 16 '17 at 19:01

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.