If you’ve ever felt a sudden, sharp toothache while flying, you’ve experienced barodontalgia. Aviators refer to it as “flyer’s toothache,” while scuba divers call it “tooth squeeze.” It can also be described as a simple toothache. Whatever it’s called, barodontalgia refers to pain in the teeth caused by changes in air pressure. Those who’ve had dental work are most susceptible to altitude-related tooth pain.
Most people are familiar with ear discomfort caused by altitude changes. Unlike the tissue of the ear canal, however, teeth are unable to expand to accommodate the growing gas, which exerts pressure on teeth and dental work.
What Causes High-Altitude Toothaches?
Changes in elevation or atmospheric pressure can trigger barodontalgia, aggravating pre-existing dental conditions. Since teeth can’t expand to accommodate these pressure changes, the resulting pressure buildup can cause intense pain in abscesses, cavities, fillings, and root canals. In extreme cases, barometric pressure can cause a cracked tooth or a dislodged filling.
Symptoms of Barodontalgia
Barodontalgia manifests as a feeling of uncomfortable pressure or sharp, stabbing pain. You may notice sudden tooth sensitivity or tooth soreness while flying, scuba diving, or hiking at high elevations. Especially vulnerable to barodontalgia are fillings, caps, crowns, root canals or veneers. People who experience sinusitis may be more likely to suffer from pressure-induced teeth pain.
Complications from Barodontalgia
Barodontalgia can have serious side effects if left untreated. In addition to intense tooth pain, the pressure can occasionally be severe enough to damage dental work, dislodging a crown or cap, for instance. In rare cases, barodontalgia can rupture the alveolar mucosa, the tissue lining the bone of the oral cavity.
Prevention of High-Altitude Toothaches
Frequent flyers and scuba divers can lower the risk of barodontalgia by exercising good dental hygiene to reduce the need for fillings and other dental work. Flight plans and diving trips should be postponed until fully recovered from dental procedures. Once back at ground level, the pain of barodontalgia often ceases, but a dental checkup should be scheduled nevertheless to check for underlying causes of pain.
For preventive or restorative dentistry, or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Corbet Locke, call our Waco dental office at (254) 776-4888. We provide comprehensive dental care to patients from Waco, Woodway, McGregor, Hewitt, and surrounding 76712 communities.