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How Do Astronauts Brush Their Teeth?

Astronaut on a spacewalk taking a picture with the sun in the background

Have you ever wondered how astronauts brush their teeth out in space? There are some tricks they use to ensure their smiles look great for photo ops when they return to Earth.

It’s Not Too Different

While there are chewable products – toothpaste as gum – that can clean teeth without traditional brushing, and a non-foaming, ingestible toothpaste called NASAdent – “the astronaut toothpaste” – brushing your teeth in space is relatively similar to how we do it on Earth.

Astronauts use the same kind of toothbrushes and toothpastes that you would buy at the drugstore. Brushing your teeth in space isn’t challenging because of the tools but because of the conditions. Astronauts need to keep their toothpaste on their toothbrushes and in their mouths while they exist in a place without much water or gravity.

Overcoming Space Challenges

To combat these challenges, astronauts come up with creative hacks. For example, many astronauts keep their personal hygiene kits that store their toothbrush and toothpaste anchored to a wall. The toothpaste itself is also stored in a special tube so that the top is attached and astronauts won’t need to worry about keeping the little toothpaste cap from floating away while they brush their teeth.

The Process

Battling gravity can make something as innocuous as brushing your teeth, a difficult task. Here’s a rundown of how astronauts brush their teeth.

Astronauts begin by filling a drink bag with water, bringing it to the hygiene area, and tucking it behind a rubber bungee so it stays secure. They then remove their hygiene kit from where it is secured on the wall and unzip it to find their toothbrush, which is secured inside a fabric pouch with a Velcro top. First though, they remove their toothpaste tube and stick it to the wall using Velcro. Then, they grab their toothbrush between a few of their fingers, and secure their partially-zipped hygiene kit back behind the rubber bungee so tools don’t float away.

With their toothbrush in one hand, astronauts then remove their drink bag and flip open the straw clamp that keeps liquid from escaping the bag and squeeze a tiny bead of water onto their toothbrush. This bead of water immediately gets sucked into the bristles of their toothbrush. Astronauts hold the straw of the drink bag in their teeth, fix the straw clamp in place, and put the bag behind the bungee, all with one hand. Then, they flip open the toothpaste cap, squeeze some out on their toothbrush, and start brushing. Since there’s no sink, they have to swallow the toothpaste, followed by a sip of water or two to get the toothpaste taste out of their mouth. Then, they dry their toothbrush on a towel and put it and the toothpaste back into the kit.

Phew! That’s a lot of work for brushing your teeth!

Astronauts know that dental hygiene is vital to their health, and you should too! Call us to schedule a cleaning today!


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