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Ever wondered why you experience toothache whilst flying? This blog explains the reasons why.
By Steve Wake
As the holiday season comes to an end, I have heard some stories about toothache during flying. Actually, since I’ve joined the Dental Negligence Team, family and friends cannot wait to tell me their dental problems.
Like most of the uncomfortable bits of flying, tooth pain emanates from the constant change in air pressure inside the cabin. From the moment the doors close, the air in the aeroplane is regulated and changed, according to the height of the aircraft and the conditions outside it.
Many people will, like me, take sweets or chewing gum to suck during landing and take off and many people, still find that they still have to hold their nose and blow to ‘pop’ our ears. But you can not really plan for toothache. You may have painkillers in your bag, if you can smuggle them through customs but the pain is usually sudden and unexpected.
When teeth decay, microscopic holes appear and trap air in. As the aircraft ascends and descends this air really has nowhere to go and it expands causing toothache. Even the people with the best dental hygiene cannot always avoid this. Some instances of toothache during flying however may be avoidable.
Trapped air in teeth can occur after a filling or Root Canal Therapy. If the filling has not been applied correctly, air pockets can form. Unfortunately, the first you will know about this will be on the flight itself. You will then have to decide whether to see a foreign dentist, or to self medicate on the way home. Either way it is not how you want to start or end a holiday.
Of course it is not always your teeth that are the cause of the pain. Your sinuses actually may be the cause and because your sinuses are just above your upper teeth, it is often misinterpreted as toothache. Once you have experienced toothache on a plane once, I think it is enough and you should see a dentist for treatment. What harm can it do? Toothache is horrible at ground level never mind at 35,000ft.