Flying can trigger toothaches and it is more common than you may think. In fact there is a branch of emergency dentistry known as aviation dentistry to study the impact of flying on the teeth. The atmospheric pressure in an airplane keeps changing constantly between take-off and landing, which leads to that twinge in your tooth making a comeback. The fluctuations in air pressure can affect the ears, nose, and mouth. Most regular travelers are prepared for the ‘popped ears’ phenomenon, but even the most frequent flyer can be caught by surprise when a toothache hits at high altitudes. What can be done to prevent disorders associated with changes in atmospheric pressure? If you have a dull ache in your tooth, the changes in pressure during a flight can instigate it into some serious pain. Travelers should be organized when it comes to their dental plan before boarding a flight. You may feel out of your depths, if you experience any kind of toothache when flying.
You may suffer from tooth pain in addition to headache from Barodontalgia, or tooth squeeze from a change in barometric pressure during flights. The root cause of this pain may be an underlying cavity or from a previous filling. So it is best to schedule a dental exam and if you have any anesthetic dental treatment, you must stay away from flying for at least 48 hours following the procedure.
Dental Restoration or Repairs
If you had any repairs or restoration work done on your teeth before flying, you should consult your dentist about how they may react to the travel. Though modern fillings and other treatments (cleans, fillings) do not usually act up when flying, you most definitely want to avoid any nasty surprises later. However, medications, active lesions, abscesses, and unfinished root canal treatment can pose issues when flying. If the filling is close to the nerve, it will inevitably result in pain so it may require long term follow up. It is also better to get cement resin restorations instead of glass ionomers, because they support the crowns more securely at high altitudes. There may be a decrease in retention of partial and full dentures with altitude change, especially during long flights when the mouth can become dry. If you are undergoing your root canal treatment, then flying may pose some problem as the temporary filling can become dislodged and in the case of unfilled tooth there may be expansion of gas within the tooth. If it does come dislodged then see your dentist as soon as possible. If your root canal is complete, you can fly within a couple of days so that you have no post-op pain to deal with.
You should see your dentist anyway to ensure that all important follow-up appointments are carried out before you fly off and you can discuss dental plans with your specialist if you are a frequent flyer for work.
People often get traveler’s breath when flying. You should not mix high altitude with fast food if you want to avoid bad breath. There is reduced saliva production due to increased elevation forcing plaque formation and bad breath. Snack accordingly to keep breath fresh. Keep sugar-free gum handy. Since it is dry at cruising altitude, you also need to drink up. It is better to go for bottled water when flying.