Vinisha Ranna is a dental student who loves scuba diving. She recently wrote a paper on the problems some divers face experiencing tooth pain whilst diving.

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The idea for the paper came about because she herself suffered from this condition whilst underwater. As she said: "You really don't want toothache at a depth of 100 feet below."

But what can cause this problem?

One of the main causes is air trapped in small cavities in the teeth that expands rapidly as the diver ascends.

As a diver descends the water pressure builds and this squeezes air into a smaller volume of space. so each breath the diver takes in more air than when at the surface. At the surface air is at a standard 1 atmosphere (ATM), at a depth of 10 metres (30 feet), that doubles to 2 ATM. This means that each breath draws in double the air than at the surface.

When a diver ascends it is vital to keep breathing all the way up. If the breath is held then the lungs will expand as air pressure drops which will lead to rupture of the lungs and certain death.

If air is trapped in a cavity of the tooth and the aperture to the cavity is small the air may not escape easily. This means that the air expanding will put pressure on any cracks or flaws in the tooth or crown. It is this pressure that can cause pain.

Another cause of pain is grinding the teeth against the mouthpiece of the breathing apparatus. Again this can exacerbate flaws in the tooth or crown loosening teeth and increasing the danger of tooth loss.

Although medical checks are carried out on divers they do not routinely include dental checks. As prevention is always better than a cure it could pay to have a check up before you go diving. So you can enjoy your time underwater without meeting some horror from 20,000 leagues under the sea!


By Ggerdel - Buceador y camarógrafo: Gustavo Gerdel - BAB Buceo, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51424488