Living on Mars has been a subject of science fiction for decades. But while the idea is certainly exciting, Mars itself is anything but hospitable. The Red Planet’s temperatures can drop to nearly 150 degrees below zero at night, and dust storms can last for weeks, at times almost completely blocking out the sun. Mars has such a thin atmosphere that it would count as a laboratory vacuum here on Earth.
And that’s just scratching the surface of the obstacles that scientists will eventually have to surmount to put a man on Mars. Luckily, one scientist is already trying to solve a few problems… with chewing gum!
Chewing Gum for Space Travellers
Thanks to oil and gas revenue, the United Arab Emirates has been growing at a breakneck pace. But they’re setting their sights further than the global city of Dubai — in fact, they recently announced plans to establish a city on Mars by the year 2117.
We’re a long way from being ready to live on Mars, but one professor at Canadian University Dubai wants to help get us one step closer. That’s why he is developing a chewing gum intended to improve the oral health, mental health, and overall health of the eventual residents of the UAE’s city on Mars.
Dr. Franziska Apprich has already created a prototype of what he’s calling “UAE Space Gum.” Apprich started with a base of natural gum, and then added date paste and honey for flavor. A dose of vitamin C will boost Mars-dwellers’ immune systems, and silver particles are intended to help fight bacteria in the mouth to prevent gum disease and decay. On top of all that, Apprich believes that the act of chewing gum can help release tension. Space travel, he assumes, will likely be a source of stress.
Dental Care on Mars
Apprich is right to be concerned about the oral health of these hypothetical Mars residents. Research that has already been done suggests that space travel could have adverse oral health effects.
Simulated microgravity studies have found that the oral cavity may be negatively affected by extended microgravity, resulting in cavities, jaw pain, and even issues with the sense of taste. Other studies have shown that space travel can lower bone density and levels of calcium and phosphorus. And that’s not to mention the fact that studies indicate that bacteria actually grow stronger in space.
Can Gum Help Here on Earth?
Here on this planet, chewing gum can affect your oral health as well. The American Dental Association recommends that chewing sugarless gum for about twenty minutes after a meal can help prevent cavities by encouraging the flow of saliva in the mouth.
But be cautious — too much chewing gum can put strain on your jaw, particularly if your bite is already misaligned. You wouldn’t want to chew your way to TMJ!