The sudden onset of toothache when you are up in the clouds can leave you feeling very vulnerable and anxious.  Why, when you have shown no previous symptoms, does this pain suddenly appear?  This is not an uncommon issue.  Flying is one of the only situations when your body is subject to regular changes in air pressure.  This change can stimulate the sensitive nerve endings in our teeth causing a sharp, squeezing sensation and can be indicative of an underlying problem.  This type of pain is referred to as Barodontalgia and symptoms may occur during take-off, landing or both phases.  If you suffer with this on your next flight, you should seek a dentist’s advice as soon as you can, so that any possible root canal problems can be investigated.

Discomfort may also be experienced as  a result of air pockets ‘popping’ in teeth that may hold old crowns or troublesome cavities.  If you experience this popping sensation, you should be examined by a dentist as soon as possible, in case you have developed a fracture in your tooth.

As sufferers of ear ache, when flying, will know, it is common for an ache in one area of your head to spread to another as the ears, nose and mouth are all connected. In fact, your upper teeth are positioned right beneath your sinuses.  Ear ache, when flying, is generally caused by the change in pressure creating a vacuum within the middle ear.  This sharp pain can often lead to a dull ache in the teeth too.  So, is there anything that can be done to prevent toothache whilst flying?  Ideally, you should not board a plane with an existing toothache, so try and arrange an appointment with your dentist prior to your flight.  And, whilst modern fillings and treatments respond perfectly to flying, it is best to ask your dentist for advice if you are planning a trip soon after treatment.  If you are feeling congested with a cold or flu, take a decongestant with you, to minimise discomfort on take-off and landing.  Well fitting ear plugs, kept in during ascent and descent, can also be useful for gradually balancing out the air pressure against your ear drums.  If you are suffering with toothache and unable to book an appointment with your dentist before departing, it would be advisable to find the number of a local emergency dentist at your destination, before your embark on your journey, so you have a contact ready should you need it on arrival.

If you’re unsure about a niggling tooth and would like one of our dentists to take a look before your holiday, contact us now to make an appointment.


Further reading: Barodontalgia can also be experienced when scuba-diving.   To learn more, take a look at this article from scuba diving magazine.