Aeroplanes and Toothaches: An Unpleasant Combination

Whether you are jet setting off to a tropical location or jumping on the plane to visit your family this vacation, the last thing you need to be worried about is a toothache. Relaxing and enjoying your trip is what should be on your mind ideally. However, unfortunately, flying and toothaches are a killer combination which is also very common.

It’s because, except for deep below the sea, aeroplanes are unlike anywhere else on earth. Throughout between take-off and landing time, the atmospheric pressure is continually changing.         

A simple dull ache can ripen into agonizing pain when in the air. During the flight, new problems can arise as well as any kind of tooth problem can get aggravated. There is little you can do for your in-flight toothache especially mid-air hence, the key is to take care of your teeth beforehand. Future flights can be pain-free if you attend to your dental requirements. 

For many, a toothache can be greatly intensified if on an aeroplane. Sometimes, pain which has not bothered you in the past too can be brought out by flying. Let’s have a look at toothaches and flying and why this combination has people cringing and bothered.

What causes in-flight tooth pain?

Do you ears ‘pop’ on the plane? If yes, then know that toothaches arise due to that exact reason: sudden changes in pressure.   

This occurrence of acute in-flight tooth pain due to high sensitivity is called as ‘barodontalgia’ and is a result of a sudden change in pressure of the environment. Not only pilots but skydivers, divers, mountain climbers, etc. are all those prone to this effect.     

The air in our bodies will try and adjust to the pressure inside the cabin, however, as you ascend and descend, the air pressure in the plane keeps changing. 

This is why people on a place are always sucking on candy, chewing gum and swallowing hard in an attempt to ‘pop’ their ears. In essence, they are making and effort to keep the pressure inside their sinus cavities unwavering from the pressure outside.  

This change in pressure will not affect a healthy tooth. But any decay, work done, etc. can cause tiny pockets of air to enter into your teeth. This air puts pressure on the tooth as the pressure in aeroplane starts to build, resulting in pain. Teeth which have no pain when you were on the ground can begin to pain and so will teeth in the beginning stage of decay or those with fillings.

On the ground, all the above-mentioned teeth can cause minimal to no symptoms, but the pressure of flying changes everything. The flaws of your teeth become plainly evident and apparent. In a way, although inconvenient, flying can be a boon because it can be sort of a ‘wake-up call’ to any issues with your teeth that you have left untreated or haven’t noticed.

Before flying

Before you board the plane, it’s best to schedule an appointment with your dentist. It’s not that flying will worsen any condition you have – like speed up decay or loosen a filling – it’s the that the ride will be one filled with pain and discomfort.

On the plane

If approved by your dentist then medication for the pain can be taken to provide relief or even prevent pain. Take the medicine well in advance, say 30 minutes prior to the flight so it has time to kick in and work. Try to avoid foods that are too hard, too sweet, too hot or too cold and similarly for beverages. Stick to things at room temperature.   

A drawback of ‘aeroplane toothache’ is that unlike sinus or ear pain, there is little you can do to reduce or prevent the pain. No, swallowing hard or chewing gum is not going to give relief to the pressure that is building inside your mouth. Which is why travelling with a toothache is a real pain. As mentioned earlier, painkillers can be consumed however there is no guarantee that they will work effectively or as well as you want it to.

Keep in mind that at times, sinus pain can seem like tooth pain. This is a false alarm - it may seem like it as the upper teeth are positioned right below the sinus cavity. So pain in the upper tooth area could actually mean pain in the sinuses. You will be able to tell the difference easily because simple remedies like mentioned before – chewing gum or swallowing will give you relief.    

However, once you rule out this option and know that it’s your tooth which is causing the pain, then once you get back home, go see the dentist. If the pain has occurred once, then it’s most likely that it will occur again. It’s sad but true. We at DentoXpert recommended that whether your teeth have had work done or not, either way, it’s best to get things checked out.

Last updated on 12 February, 2018.

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