Space missions are getting longer and soon astronauts will required a dental augmented reality lab. During the hackathon I had the opportunity to discusss with some of the astronauts and Chief Scientific Officer about the requirements of building a dental laboratory with remote and local components to diagnose, treat and cure any oral disease.

This project is solving the 3D AstroMed Devices challenge.


Dental emergency treatment in space: The prospect of having a dental emergency in space from an organic point of view is remote. In short space voyages, the maximum time will be a year using the present technology. It is a given that the astronauts will have had a through medical and dental exam and any dental treatment needed, will have been done. I also assume that the biologic functions of the astronauts will not suffer. As the members who fly into space are relatively young- under a certain age, I do not think that they will be suffering from periodontal disease, severe orthodontic problems, poor quality of the restorations and the like. In fact, I would imagine that a full complement of healthy teeth is a requirement. The only dental problem that could occur would be emergency treatment from trauma, or from a tooth that was dying with no symptoms while on terra firma and then acted up in space. If for example, an object in zero gravity were to hit an astronaut in the mouth, a number of things could happen: 1) a chipped tooth with no sequela—no swelling, pain or pain on biting. In other words no damage to the supporting structures bone, soft tissue or endodontic tissue. 2) a fracture of the tooth such that the nerve tissue becomes inflamed and painful with symptomatic recovery 3) a fracture of the tooth which becomes painful, with pain increasing requiring a root canal. 4) a complete fracture of the crown from the root with no supporting tooth structure involvement (bone or soft tissue). In this case the nerve is exposed. 5) a traumatic event where the tooth is fractured with a partial avulsion of the the tooth and a part of the tooth remains in the socket. In this case, to try and remove the last piece of the remaining tooth (size and location must be determined by an x-ray) may be left in the socket and a socket dressing and wound closure would be the treatment. All exposed nerve trauma in most instances (space being a probable exception) requires a root canal. In some cases covering the exposed nerve with a dental material may work, but if there is not sufficient crown surface to hold a restoration, then root canal therapy is the treatment. To sum up, the most probable emergency dental treatment in space would be instances where a root canal therapy is needed. The problem is how would this be done and what type instruments will be needed. We already have approved hand held x-ray devices. Root canal instruments are small. Medicaments are placed in containers and headlamps with cameras are already on the market. It might be advisable to teach the astronauts how to do an endodontic procedure and with basic knowledge and the communications from the vehicle to earth with sound and picture, would make any such procedure routine. I do not see any other dental emergency, save an extraction and all those instruments are certainly small enough to be included in a medical/dental kit. Astronauts could be taught extractions and suturing. If courses suggested are done on a daily basis for approximately one to two months, proficiency in the treatments would be at a fairly good level.

Project Information

License: NASA Open Source Agreement 1.3 (NASA-1.3)

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  • Rafael Vasquez