Like many people, you might have plans to board an airplane to head somewhere for vacation this summer. If you find your teeth mysteriously aching somewhere between cramming your carry-on in the overhead compartment and tearing open a tiny bag of peanuts, don’t be too alarmed. That ache is probably just barodontalgia, or sometimes referred to as “flyer’s toothache” or “tooth squeeze,” in divers, a temporary condition caused by the change of atmospheric pressure.
If you’re flying somewhere tropical with the intent to scuba dive, don’t be surprised if you experience the same pain underwater. The squeeze caused by atmospheric pressure happens down deep as well as up in the sky.
Though barodontalgia is pretty rare, if it happens to you, it’s worth mentioning to your dentist. Barodontalgia can sometimes be an indicator of a cavity or problems with old dental work (a loose filling, for example). To help avoid oral discomfort, refrain from flying or diving within 24 hours of a dental treatment that requires anesthesia. If you’ve had a surgical procedure, such as the removal of wisdom teeth, avoid these activities for seven days.
And don’t worry – barodontalgia disappears as soon as you’re back at ground level. Your smile will be pain-free for all of those fabulous vacation photos you’re going to take!