Changes in Pressure and Tooth Squeeze

scuba 2A new study from the University of Buffalo says that 41 percent of scuba divers surveyed reported dental symptoms such as pain in the teeth or jaws and some reported loosened crowns while diving. One of the respondents reported actually losing a dental filling during a dive.

Barodontalgia, sometimes more casually referred to as ‘tooth squeeze,’ occurs when extreme changes in pressure cause pain in the tooth. It occurs most often in underwater divers but has also been noted in pilots, flight attendants, and airline passengers as well. This pressure induced pain is almost always a symptom of an underlying issue such as a cavity or infection in the tooth and not just a random occurrence.

Dr. John Pappas, DDS, Phoenix cosmetic and family dentist says,

“Healthy teeth are not typically affected by changes in pressure. However, sometimes spaces around old fillings, crowns or dentures can experience ‘tooth squeeze’ during sudden pressure changes such as flights or dives. The best way to avoid this is to get an exam before you dive or fly to check for signs of decay, infection or restorations that need replacing. If you have already experienced ‘tooth squeeze’ avoid food and drinks that are hot or cold because they can make the pain worse due to sensitivity and visit a dentist as soon as possible.”

Another factor that plays into the tooth and jaw pain or discomfort that can be experienced specifically by divers is due to the fact that the air regulator is held firmly in the mouth throughout the duration of the dive.

According to the Divers Alert Network, 15-20% of snorkelers and scuba divers have reported symptoms of TMJ disorders. This could be due to the forward position the jaw is forced into when using an ill-fitting mouthpiece. Excessive clenching of the mouthpiece is also a factor, especially when the regulator is heavy. In fact, divers sometimes actually bite through their mouthpiece and have to replace them.

“Clenching or grinding your teeth, called bruxism can cause jaw pain, ear pain, headaches and even damage your teeth.”, says Pappas. “Clenching your teeth or jaws puts excessive pressure on the joint and the tissues and muscles that surround it. Over time, this can lead to a painful and complicated TMJ disorder.”

The Divers Alert Network recommends consciously working to relax your bite when diving while still keeping the mouthpiece in place. If this still isn’t helping, it may be time to try an alternative mouthpiece as there could be a fit issue. A mouthpiece should fit properly, and sometimes a customized one may be the best and most comfortable solution.

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