You're sitting in your seat as your plane ascends. All of a sudden, your tooth starts to throb and hurt, and bothers you throughout your flight. But as you land at your destination, your pain goes away.
What’s wrong? Why would you get a toothache on an airplane? And should you be concerned if your tooth only hurts while flying? Find out now in this blog from the office of Dr. Priti Naik.
The answer is simple. Air pressure! When the pressure of the air changes as your plane rises, your tooth may start to hurt if a pocket of air is stuck inside of the tooth, or between your tooth and a piece of dental work.
Planes fly at a height of 30,000 to 40,000 feet, where the air is too thin to breathe. That’s why the cabin of a plane is “pressurized” to provide breathable air. However, most planes are pressurized to an altitude of 6,000 to 8,000 feet.
This is perfectly breathable and comfortable, but the air does expand and grow thinner as the airplane rises and pressurizes to its normal cabin pressure. This is, for example, why your ears pop as you ascend and descend. Your ears are “equalizing” the pressure as the air expands and contracts.
This can affect your teeth, too. If there’s a pocket of air stuck in your tooth, it will expand as you take off. This can put a lot of pressure on your tooth and the underlying nerves, causing pain. But as you descend to land, the pressure eases off, and the pain goes away.
Yes. Even if your toothache only happens when you fly, it indicates that something is wrong with the tooth. This is because healthy teeth will never hurt on an airplane. Healthy teeth are solid, and have no openings, crevices, or cracks where a bubble of air can become trapped.
If you regularly get toothaches on airplanes, there are two likely culprits. First, it may be a small, unnoticed cavity, which is trapping a bubble of air. You should see a dentist to have the tooth filled. This will relieve your toothache, and will also prevent further complications related to tooth decay, such as infected teeth.
Second, it may be a failing or worn-out dental restoration like a crown or a filling. As crowns and fillings age, they can pull away from the tooth slightly. If a pocket of air forms between the restoration and the tooth, this may cause a toothache.
Generally speaking, it’s not normal to get toothaches on airplanes, and this could indicate that you have an unnoticed cavity or a piece of worn-down dental work. So schedule an appointment with Dr. Priti Naik right away. Dr. Naik can examine your mouth, assess your oral health, and provide you with the restorative care you need to avoid toothaches during your future flights. Contact us online or call at (703) 288-1800 to get the care you need in Vienna, Tysons Corner, and McLean.