Why do so many people get tooth pain when flying?

·2-min read
Photo credit: Peter Dazeley - Getty Images
Photo credit: Peter Dazeley - Getty Images

If you've ever experienced tooth pain or aches while flying on a plane, you're not alone – according to dentist Dr Kailesh Solanki, of DentalPhobia, who says that it's certainly not an uncommon experience and that there are a couple of explanations as to why it happens. Oh, and there are even fancy medical terms for it too.

"People who experience tooth pain when flying - otherwise known as barodontalgia or aerodontalgia - tend to have an underlying dental issue or existing tooth sensitivity," says Dr Solanki. "It’s much more common than you might think... The changes in air pressure within the cabin during take-off or landing can stimulate nerve endings within the teeth, triggering sudden discomfort."

Alternatively, he adds, anyone with ill-fitting crowns, cavities or fractured teeth may experience a popping sensation while up in the air, which is caused by air pockets during changes in cabin pressure.

"Sinus problems can also result in painful teeth shortly after take-off, particularly in the upper back teeth," notes Dr Solanki. "The roots of the upper molars are close to the sinus cavities so when the sinuses swell with the air pressure, it can be felt directly in your teeth."

Photo credit: SEAN GLADWELL - Getty Images
Photo credit: SEAN GLADWELL - Getty Images

So, what do you do if you're one of the unlucky ones who experiences toothache on a flight? "I'd recommend visiting their dentist as soon as possible, so the teeth can be properly examined and any problems addressed," says the expert. However, if you're stuck on a long haul journey or can't get an appointment, a few things that might offer some immediate relief include avoiding any very cold or very hot food or drinks on the flight.

"Drink water rather than tea, coffee or sugary drinks and take a paracetamol which may reduce sensitivity for the remainder of the flight," adds Dr Solanki. "Also, if you’re aware of any potential problems before you get on the flight but have not yet been able to have treatment, then it may be worth packing in your hand luggage essential tooth first aid items, such as painkillers, clove oil, toothpaste for sensitive teeth and cotton wool balls which can be soaked in whisky and applied directly onto the tooth."

He also suggests chewing some sugar-free gum, as it may help if you have a fracture or cavity, by packing it into the affected tooth.

Happy flying, everyone!

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