Is scuba diving on your list of things to try or do this summer? Science-backed evidence shows you’re gonna want to see the dentist first.
A recent study in the British Dental Journal suggests tooth pain and dental issues are a common problems among scuba divers.
In an online survey, more than 40% of divers said they had “experienced dental problems during a dive.” A squeezing sensation known as barodontalgia was the most common occurrence. Molar teeth were also the source of pain. The study also showed that diving instructors, who spend a lot of time in shallow water with fluctuating pressure, were most likely to have dental symptoms.
Why so much pain underwater?
Scientists say it has to do with the water’s fluctuating pressure and constant jaw clenching when using the scuba mouthpiece. People may also experience cracked teeth, loosened crowns, and broken fillings.
“It would be meaningful to ensure that dental decay and damaged restorations are addressed before a dive,” the study warns, “and that the mouthpiece design be evaluated in case of complaints of discomfort during a dive.”
Unfortunately, medical checks that are required of a person to become certified to scuba dive often don’t include dental health. But considering the air supply regulator is held in the mouth, any disorder in the mouth can potentially increase the diver’s risk of injury.
One of the researchers on the study, Vinisha Ranna, is a certified diver herself, and became inspired to conduct the survey after experiencing tooth discomfort during a dive. Her next step is to conduct a survey with a larger sample size.
“An unhealthy tooth underwater would be much more obvious than on the surface,” she said. “One hundred feet underwater is the last place you want to be with a fractured tooth,” says Ranna.
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