woman standing at the airport

Toothache on an Airplane? What You Need to Know

July 23, 2019

Dealing with cabin pressure on an airplane is a common issue than many travelers have experienced. We often chew gum or try to yawn during takeoffs and landings to pop our ears and relieve pressure. However, the discomfort that causes pain in a person’s ears or sinuses can also cause pain in your teeth. If you experience toothaches when you travel on an airplane, here’s what you need to know:

Air Trapped in a Filling

Flying can cause toothaches because your body experiences a pressure change with an increase in altitude, a condition known as aerodontalgia. Tooth pain on an airplane is often caused by air getting trapped in a filling. This can happen if your dental work did not completely fill your cavity. Also, older fillings can have microscopic gaps or holes that develop over time and lead to the same trapped air. When air gets stuck between your filling and your natural tooth, the rapid change in cabin pressure while on an airplane can cause discomfort and pain. While chewing gum and equalizing can help in other circumstances, air trapped in fillings cannot be remedied the same way. If you deal with toothaches every time you travel, the best way to get to the cause of the issue is to see a dentist for a new filling.

Other Common Causes of Tooth Pain on Airplanes

  • Cracked or chipped teeth: Any small space where air can become trapped is highly susceptible to pain.
  • Decay or cavities: Essentially, cavities are tiny holes formed in the outer layers of your teeth, which makes them vulnerable to air entrapment and pain when you fly
  • Sensitive teeth: If your teeth are already sensitive, cabin pressure can cause discomfort

Things to Do Before Your Flight

Planning a big trip? The best thing you can do to ensure that your travel is pain-free is to make a dental appointment with us before you take off! The American Dental Association recommends that you visit the dentist twice per year for preventive appointments. Since many people take trips during summer and winter months, this is a great way to plan your dental visits in synch with your travel. During your appointment, Dr. Carpenter will check every crown and filling to ensure that they are in proper shape.

Recent Dental Work? Considerations Before You Travel

Within a day of receiving dental work, it is typically safe to fly. If you will be going on a trip shortly after oral surgery, inform one of our dentists to get all the details you need to ensure safe travel. Here are a few things to consider when flying after dental work:

  • Bring clean gauze or cotton balls because your gums may bleed
  • Look up a dentist near your destination to ensure that you know where to go once you land if there are complications during your flight.
  • Have over-the-counter painkillers ready in case you experience any discomfort during your flight

The Good News

If your teeth are healthy, you won’t notice any pain or discomfort during your flight. And even if you do get a toothache while in the air, it can help to know that altitude will not worsen any dental condition. Flying won’t make conditions like cavities, loose fillings, or gingivitis any worse than they already are, though they may become more painful during the duration of your air travel.

Book Your Appointment Before You Take Off!

If you notice a cavity or suspect that you have a loose filling, come into Carmel Mountain Ranch Dental Care to take care of any issues before your next flight. Getting quality dental work before you travel will give you peace of mind, and it may even save you from an uncomfortable toothache while you travel! You can reach us at (858) 487-6453 or stop by our office at 12075 Carmel Mountain Rd, Suite 210, San Diego, CA 92128.

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