07 Sep

Tooth or Sinus Pain When Flying?

It is not uncommon for people to experience tooth or sinus pain while they travel on airlines. This has to do with the way the body responds to pressure changes which means these pains can also happen when diving. When you fly the air pressure in the cabin of the airplane is lowered and when you dive the pressure increases the farther you go. There is a technical term for this pain called “barotrauma,” also referred to as a “squeeze.”

A squeeze occurs when the pressures outside the body and inside the body are not equalized. Normally the body organs transmit pressure equally from outside to inside. When pressure changes problems within the body structures that are filled with air and that have rigid lining such as the middle ear spaces and sinus cavities of the skull occur. You are probably familiar with the suggestions to “clear” your ears or swallow, yawn, chew gum, or move the jaw side-to-side to equalize pressure. The reason these methods are suggested is to equalize the pressure in these air-filled, rigid walled structures mentioned above.

Our sinuses in particular have small openings which make it possible to clear them when changes in pressure occur so that the fluid that accumulates is drained. When we find it difficult to clear this area it probably means these openings or membranes are filled with fluid because of the changes in pressure.  The skulls largest sinuses are adjacent to the nose and the lower walls of these upper jaw sinuses are adjacent to the back teeth and upper jaw. The same painful reactions can be felt from a toothache as from a pain in the sinuses. The shared nerves can cause pain in either area and are often felt during flights or while diving.

If you have frequent pain each time you dive or fly it is important to consult with your dentist to see if your pains are associated with a defect in a filling or tooth that is trapping air. Often the first sign of a damaged tooth is pain in response to pressure change. For more information on these pains contact us today.