Space is a heck of a place for a toothache. This is why NASA has always been very keen on dental work and more specifically, on scanning people for caries. Lots of people know that astronauts must have perfect dentition and no cavities, as that is a liability in space, luckily, the technology for detecting and finding cavities and weaknesses in the tooth enamel matrix makes finding even pre-cavities very easy; a gift from orthodontics to space flight. But things have indeed come full circle, and now it is orthodontics which has been borrowing knowledge, technology and methods from NASA. Here is a look at how space travel has influenced orthodontics.
The alloy used to make the braces that are activated by temperature was initially invented by NASA. The space agency invented the alloy as a means to coat spacecraft. The invisible materials used in adult orthodontics and aesthetic braces were also developed by NASA for military uses, namely, to hide missiles. Memory alloys, or metallic alloys that can return to a shape they have been bent to were also developed first by NASA, and are being experimented on to try and make new, safe alloys that can be used for humans.
Dental care in the future
It seems more than likely that the future will also see a close relationship between space technology and dentistry. A mechanism for detecting the early onset of periodontitis is being developed by NASA, and it uses ultrasonic waves to examine teeth and gums, in order to help diagnose periodontitis easier and quicker than before. Foamless toothpaste has also been developed by NASA, but people do not like it, although it was marketed briefly as children’s toothpaste, as it is edible even in large quantities. Dental x-rays and x-ray technology in general is always used and upgraded at NASA, so we may see some new and more advanced x-ray or cone beam technology coming from space flight. This is just one of the many examples of why the current scientific notion and emphasis on intersectionality and holistic approach to a given subject seems to be much more fruitful than the old way of studying one subject exclusively.