Tooth Pain Highs and Lows

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What do air travel and scuba diving have in common? These activities may bring summer vacation to mind, but they also share something less pleasant: Both flying and deep sea diving can be a real pain — in the tooth, that is.

This is because both involve changes in pressure that can lead to a toothache — lower air pressure in the cabin of a plane and higher pressure in the depths of the sea.

In flying, pain sometimes occurs during takeoff and landing since this is when air pressure changes the fastest. Likewise, in diving, the pain — which divers call “tooth squeeze” — may be experienced while descending or when returning to the surface.

If you have a toothache while on the ground, or even occasional on-and-off pain, a plane ride or an undersea dive can intensify it greatly. In addition, flying and diving can bring out pain in a tooth that never bothered you before.

For some, a toothache while flying or diving is the first sign of an underlying dental problem. For example, defective fillings or decayed teeth may develop microscopic holes or gaps that can trap air. Similarly, if a tooth is cracked, air can seep into the tooth and may not be able to keep pace with changes in pressure. In short, any defect in a filling or tooth may trap air, and could lead to a toothache when pressure changes.

The bottom line: You can prevent flying or diving from becoming a major pain this summer. Play it safe and see your dentist before you take to the skies or the deep blue sea.

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