Slovenian students successfully complete simulation of dental treatment in space
Ljubljana, 6 December - Slovenian students have successfully completed a simulation of dental treatment in space during parabolic flight above the Atlantic Ocean as part of a project called SpaceDent that is looking to make dental treatment viable during multi-year missions into space.
The students conducted experiments on tooth preparation and the making of dental fillings. The aim was to determine whether dental procedures in microgravity are sufficiently controlled to safely treat astronauts.
SpaceDent brings together students of dental medicine, and mechanical and electrical engineering from the University of Ljubljana, who have carried out a preliminary study comparing the safe use of dental instruments in simulated weightlessness and in Earth's gravity.
Humanity is preparing for a new chapter in space exploration and multi-year missions to the Moon and Mars present new challenges, which include the ability to adapt to prolonged exposure to microgravity, the SpaceDent team said before the experiment.
Students at several faculties in Slovenia had been preparing for the project since the start of this year and the experiment took place between 20 November and 1 December onboard an Airbus A310 Zero-G, which took off from Bordeaux, France.
In total students had 30 minutes of zero gravity to work in, Tine Šefic, the project leader and a student of dental medicine at the Ljubljana Faculty of Medicine, told the STA.
To make the experiment possible, two chambers mimicking the environment of a dental chair with a patient's head were made by mechanical and electrical engineering students in an open laboratory of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and placed inside the aircraft.
"In the middle were two dummy heads on which we performed drilling and filling procedures," said Šefic, who together with his colleague Rok Gerbec, also a dental student, performed the simulated dental procedures.
The experiment was conducted under microgravity conditions but it also had two controls, during steady flight and when the aircraft was stationary on the ground.
He said the experiment had been carried out without any major complications. From periods of microgravity, stable flight and rest, 72 samples of prepared teeth and 36 samples of teeth with fillings done were obtained and will be analysed in the coming days.
"We were pleasantly surprised by the control of the instruments in weightlessness, but more detailed results will be known after a more in-depth analysis," said Šefic. The results will be published in scientific journals and presented at conferences next year.
SpaceDent is a project of an interdisciplinary student research team as part of ESA's Academy Experiments programme. According to head of the ESA Academy Joost Vanreusel, the project is a good example of how different professions need to work together in the development of the space sector.