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Oral Hygiene Habits of the Interesting: U.S. Astronaut Clayton C. Anderson

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2012-08-05-clayton.jpg I had the honor of interviewing U.S. Astonaut Clayton C. Anderson about his oral hygiene habits while living on the international space station for six months.

Q: Do you avoid certain food or drink the day of a launch or re-entry because of the way it may interact with your body?

A: Most folks, including me, ate lightly on launch day for fear of throwing it up later! I had a turkey and cheese sandwich on wheat bread for both of my launch day meals. I never threw up either! For landing day, I kept my routine normal and did nothing special. Toughest part of re-entry is fluid loading, where we must drink a specific amount of fluid and salt tablets to help replenish our vascular system prior to landing. The bigger you are, the more you must consume and then hope it gets absorbed into your body... which we actually don't give it enough time to do. I threw it all up after my five-month stay on the station but was able to keep everything down after my 15-day flight on STS131.

Q: How would you describe your flossing routine?

A: Once daily, prior to sleep, green mint floss! Mmmmmm! Or when food was stuck... but no corn on the cob in space!

Q: As an astronaut, is there a special routine you have developed to care for your mouth while living in space?

A: Brushed and flossed daily... brushing every morning after breakfast, using toothpaste that aided my tooth sensitivity. Flossed at night before sleep time, then brushed teeth after flossing. Only brushed/flossed during the day if I felt I needed to (something stuck in teeth or breath nasty!).

Q: Is there a specific oral health care product you love?

A: On ISS I used a mint toothpaste with sensitivity protection, and I am not able to specify the brand of toothpaste or dental floss, as that would be considered an endorsement. Astronauts are allowed to select their preferred brand of toothpaste and floss if they wish, or they can just use what's already up there. We do not use electric toothbrushes -- we do it the old fashioned way!

Q: If I was not an astronaut, I would be:

A: President of the United States! [You have my vote, Mr. Astronaut!]

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