How Does Scuba Diving Cause Dental Problems and Pain?
The 2016 University of Buffalo School of Dental Medicine study found that 41 percent of scuba divers experience painful dental conditions while underwater. These symptoms include the loss of fillings and the breaking of crowns and other dental restorations. Some participants in the study reported a painful feeling of their teeth being squeezed, a condition known as barodontalgia.
Other divers reported gum pain and increased jaw pain caused by the changes in pressure underwater. Some patients also reported that holding the air supply regulator, a necessary part of diving equipment, in the mouth can also exacerbate painful preexisting dental problems and TMJD.
How Did Dental Researchers Discover the Connection?
The lead scientist on the study experienced the painful feeling of barodontalgia during a personal diving trip. This experience prompted her to create the study, which used information collected from an online survey of 100 certified recreation scuba divers over the age of 18 and in good health.
Of the 41 percent of study participants reporting dental pain and problems during diving, nearly half experienced the painful squeezing feeling of barodontalgia. Twenty-four percent reported pain in the jaw from holding the air regulator breathing apparatus too tightly.
Twenty-two percent also reported jaw pain. Other participants reported that their crowns became loose after diving, and one reported a broken filling. Pain was most often reported in the molars.
Dive instructors were found to have the highest number of incidents of pain or other dental problems. This was due to the frequency of their dives.
Researchers concluded that the potential for damage during scuba diving is high. As a result, they advise that individuals should discuss their travel plans with their dentist before heading out on vacations that include scuba diving.
Talking to Your Dentist to Help Prevent Pain
“Discussing your vacation plans with your dentist can help eliminate pain from ruining your vacation,” Dr. Stefania Caracioni, D.D.S., L.V.I.F., said.
Caracioni is a Topeka, Kansas, dentist.
“You do not want to pop a filling or break a crown hundreds of feet underwater and thousands of miles away on vacation in another country,” Caracioni said.
Patients should make an appointment with their dentist to have their restorations checked and to check out their dental health overall.
“Diseased or damaged teeth will feel 100 times worse underwater than on land,” Caracioni said.
The pain of diseased or damaged teeth can also be felt at higher altitudes, like in the pressurized cabin of an airplane or on top of a mountain peak.
“Any change in atmospheric pressure can cause pain in the teeth,” Caracioni said.
Additional Concerns About Diving
Dry mouth is another problem experienced by many scuba divers. While the problem is usually temporary, people who dive frequently may be at a greater risk of developing painful tooth decay because of dry mouth conditions.
“Bacteria flourish when the mouth is dry,” Caracioni said.
To prevent complications from dry mouth, individuals who dive frequently should be sure to stay well hydrated before and after their dive. Mouth rinses like Biotin and gum or mints containing Xylitol can help alleviate uncomfortable dry mouth symptoms.
Patients with temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJD, should also mention their dive trip to their dentist before jetsetting off to sunnier climes. Holding the air regulator apparatus too tightly in the mouth can aggravate the already tense muscles of the jaw in TMJD patients and cause a flareup of pain, loss of jaw function and other uncomfortable symptoms.
“Taking a few preventative measures before you go can protect you from pain that ruins your vacation,” Caracioni said.
University at Buffalo. “Training to become a scuba diver? Start at the dentist.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 December 2016.