In 1973 the Skylab space travels began marking the start of manned space flights into earth orbit and during this time the astronauts relied on different modern dental equipment as they proceeded with their journey. The astronauts who joined the Skylab space missions needed to have a means for dental care in space and so the military dentists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA came up with a dental component for the in flight medical support system or IMSS. There were three flights during the Skylab missions and each one lasted from 4 to 8 weeks and during this time the dental equipment served a three man crew.
The dental equipment was intended to have the purpose of treating any ailments that could be dealt with on an outpatient basis according to one military dentist. Every piece of equipment provided ample service that no do it yourself medical kit could ever provide. For the three man crew that will engage in a mission lasting 28 days the risk for any dental problems occurring is a mere one percent and this served as the basis for the treatment concept developed for the Skylab project. Pulpitis or periodontal abscess are examples of serious problems that may require immediate dental attention so as not to compromise the working capabilities of crew members comprising the one percent risk earlier discussed.
There are times when minor dental problems may surface including chipped teeth and the risks for such are at five percent. The dental equipment for the IMSS includes tooth removal forceps, elevator, local anesthetic with syringe, periodontal curette, restorative material applicator, file, battery powered light source with mirror, selvage gauze, Gigli saw, and temporary restorative material. Much effort came from the Air Force den corps as they developed a special formula for the restorative material provided to the space travelers. The formulation allowed it to be mixed even with zero gravity.
After much success from the equipment testing process the flight crews were subjected to two days of intensive training for them to have the ability to use the equipment after the launch. Dental procedures that involved skills reaching the level needed for tooth removal became the general focus of the conducted training sessions. Illustrations of the oral cavity from personal radiographs, diagnosis information, as well as procedural guidelines will be integrated into a dental manual that will be placed on the space vehicle.
Compiled narrative summaries of space flight dental treatments done since 1966, personal dental records and oral casts for each flight crew member, and personal radiograph images are some of the materials carried by a mission control dentist. As much as possible there should be constant communication between the astronauts and the people in ground control especially since dental officers will need to approve any procedure presented by the astronaut.
When it comes to the possibility of having non professionals do the dental procedures in space there is a majority of people involved in the program that still have their contradictions to the matter. Especially for the Skylab missions any threat that could result to extreme financial losses even for reasons such as problems caused by a crew member’s dental pain may not be acceptable. There has been much debate on the program and so they have agreed upon resorting to the procedures if there are no other options left.
Source by Janney Mickey Shanney