Monday, September 10, 2012


The many uses of an ordinary toothbrush never cease to amaze.  Just last week from Cape Canaveral came news that a stubborn bolt on the International Space Station was fixed by two spacewalking astronauts who fashioned a special tool out of a toothbrush!

The spacewalk by NASA Astronaut Sunita Williams and Japan's Akihiko Hoshide was the second in a week to replace a key part of the station's power system.  The astronauts successfully removed a faulty 220-pound device known as a "main bus switching unit," but weren't able to bolt a replacement into position.  The culprit was metal debris on the bolt that prevented it from properly tightening.

While engineers at NASA considered repair options, the two industrious astronauts came up with their own solutions:  a wire brush formed from spare cable, and another brush crafted from an ordinary toothbrush.  With their homemade tools in tow, the two astronauts once again left the station's airlock and used the unique brushes to clean the debris from the bolt. After 4-1/2 hours of work with the toothbrush and cable brush, the bolt was fit into place -- and shortly after, power was flowing again to the International Space Station!

The staff of Wilmette Dental recommends always having a toothbrush handy:  for regular brushing as well as for repairing space stations!  (You never know...)

(Photo courtesy of NASA)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Seaweed ...A New Weapon Against Plaque

Every so often, a new plaque-fighting tool catches our eye at Wilmette Dental.  Now, from the UK, comes news of an enzyme found on the surface of seaweed that shows great promise in reducing the bacteria that form plaque on teeth.  In fact, researchers are so hopeful about the find, that they believe the seaweed enzyme may one day be a key ingredient in oral hygiene products.

The enzyme was originally identified by an English marine research group screening for compounds that could break up microbes from the surfaces of ship hulls.  The concept of a dispersing microbe caught the attention of Newcastle University's School of Dental Sciences, which recognized the potential for using the natural enzyme to break up the bacteria that causes plaque on teeth.  Oral bacteria form plaque by “colonizing” on teeth -- a sort of attack by numbers.  The bacteria create a slimy, tooth decay-causing film of extracellular DNA that joins them together and helps them stick to a solid surface -- our teeth.  The seaweed enzyme prevents these nasty microbes from grouping in the first place by breaking up their DNA, and that helps prevent the formation of plaque.  

More research needs to be done to confirm the seaweed enzyme’s effectiveness, and to ensure that it is safe for human use.  If so, researchers hope to use the enzyme as an ingredient in toothpaste, mouthwash and denture cleaning products. And, scientists say the enzyme may be used in other healthcare areas, such as keeping certain medical implants clean.