As part of the first manned space flights during the Skylab operations during the seventies the astronauts who were sent into earth orbit were accompanied by modern dental equipment. 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. Astronauts who took part in space travel during the Skylab missions had the necessary dental equipment they needed for the three man crews who were sent off from 28 to 56 days per flight.
Ailments that could be treated on an outpatient basis were the extent of the capabilities of the dental equipment used during the Skylab missions as one of the military dentists commented. But still the equipment should not be compared with any do it yourself kit or buddy kit kind of solution. There is a one percent risk that dental treatment might be needed for any of the three man crews that will be sent into space for 28 days and this is where the treatment concepts at that time were based upon. The dental risks consist of situations where dental problems may lead to a decreased effectiveness for the astronaut who may be experiencing pulpitis or even periodontal abscess.
There is also a separate risk rating of five percent given to less serious mishaps like a fractured restoration. Dental assistance during the Skylab project highly depended on the IMSS dental equipment as this article will further discuss utilizing a wide range of tools from syringes and anesthetic to periodontal curettes and Gigli saws. To abide by the in flight specifications the Air Force den corps especially developed the necessary restoration material that will work effectively even in space. The formulation allowed it to be mixed even with zero gravity.
A two day intensive training program for using the equipment has been devised and conducted and the equipment has been successfully tested. The training provided by NASA aimed to provide instruction regarding different dental procedures considering the maximum complexity as that of tooth removal. 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.
Crew members can rest assured that dental advice can always be obtained from the dentist in mission control as he has all of their dental records including oral casts and periapical and panoramic radiographs. Every space mission requires an extensive use of space to ground conversation and in this case procedures cannot simply be done without the approval of an on ground dental officer.
Regardless if they are part of the program some people fail to see the practicality of training the astronauts to perform basic dental procedures and so they tend to have reservations about the idea. One should also consider the possibility of losing millions of dollars should a crew member and severe dental pain on board a space vehicle lead to a consistent decline in effectiveness causing a Skylab mission to end up without gain. To lessen the conflict with regard to non dentists doing procedures in space permission will only be granted if all else fails.
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