Dental Considerations

  • Michael H. HodappEmail author
  • Arthur H. Jeske


Dental and oral diseases have afflicted humans throughout history, and these can have significant health effects during remote expeditionary sorties. Space flight is no exception. While overall dental hygiene has improved, diagnostic dental radiographs, root canals, and definitive dental care are luxuries that will not be available in space for the near future. Moreover, since inflight equipment and supplies carried into space are constrained by weight and storage and must operate well in weightlessness, the dental equipment currently available onboard spacecraft is very limited. This compact suite in combination with preflight and inflight dental hygiene has served crewmembers well for the majority of low Earth orbital (LEO) missions. However, as the duration of space flight increases, the likelihood of a dental emergency occurring in space also increases. Factors that are not a concern for short-term or LEO missions, such as recurrent dental caries and the development of periodontal disease, become increasingly important as the duration and distance of space travel increase. In addition to caries and periodontal disease, several other factors can afflict crewmembers. Trauma causing tooth fracture and other significant injuries to the face and jaws is possible. Also possible during a long duration flight are the development of cracked or splitting teeth, reversible or irreversible pulpitis (inflammation of the tooth pulp), pulpal necrosis, periapical abscess, periodontal abscess, bruxism, and temporomandibular disorders. The risk of these events may drive the development and provision of a more comprehensive onboard dental treatment capability for exploration-class missions.

This chapter was prepared to provide a brief for flight surgeons and crew medical officers who will be diagnosing and treating dental emergencies in spaceflight crews and to advise healthcare professionals involved with preflight astronaut care and screening of the dental concerns relevant to space flight and best practices to optimize mission success. Basic information has been included to help manage a potential emergency situation. In addition, new and emerging technologies that may offer advantages for dental health of future spaceflight crews are discussed.


Dental emergencies in space Dental subpack Pulpitis Dental barotrauma in space Barodontalgia in space Spaceflight dental emergencies 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Private PracticeHoustonUSA
  2. 2.Strategic Planning and Continuing Dental EducationUT Health Science Center at HoustonHoustonUSA

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