Unfortunately, yes, flying can give you a toothache. Once the plane leaves the tarmac and starts to climb, your teeth become sensitive and you can develop a growing pain. If you had oral problems prior to the flight, they may become worse in-flight, but you may also notice some tooth pain for the first time.
Why Flying Can Give You a Toothache
Toothaches occur during flights because of the pressure change your body is experiencing with the increase in altitude. You may notice a pain in your ears or get a headache for the same reason. The good news – changes in pressure during a flight aren’t likely to affect your healthy teeth. Flying also doesn’t influence your tooth health – it only brings attention to issues that are already there. For example, flying will not make cavities, loose fillings, or gingivitis worse.
You may also experience toothaches on a plane because of sinus pressure. If the discomfort you experience while flying is across all your upper back teeth, it’s likely a problem related to the sinus nerves near your jaw rather than an individual tooth problem.
Managing Tooth Pain While Traveling
If you aren’t prepared for tooth pain, it will be difficult to address it during the middle of a flight. If you are aware of tooth problems prior to your flight, there are a few tips you can follow to help manage the pain.
Before Your Flight
Have you been struggling with some tooth pain? If so, try to see a dentist before your flight.
Altitude changes will exacerbate any issues you’ve been experiencing. A trip to see your dentist can curb any problems, whether that means having a cavity filled, a new mouth guard made, or something else. Talk to your dentist about painkillers if you’ll be flying soon after an appointment. It is recommended to take the medications suggested by your dentist roughly a half-hour before your plane is in the air.
It is also worth checking in with a dentist if you have a history of tooth problems. Cracks, cavities, and issues with fillings can develop before you experience any pain, but they will lead to some discomfort while flying.
During Your Flight
If you came prepared with your dentist-approved pain meds, remember to take them before you leave and to take more when you can during your flight. It is important to remember that your teeth will still be extra sensitive during this time and you should avoid cold beverages and foods as well opting for water instead of coffee, tea, and other acidic/sugary drinks. If you’ also note that your teeth will still be extra sensitive during this time. Avoid cold beverages and foods, and go for water instead of coffee, tea, and other acidic or sugary drinks. If you’re still recovering from dental surgery, bring extra gauze to handle any additional bleeding from your gums that may occur during the flight.
When to Take Extra Care of Your Teeth Before Flying
The building pressure while flying can cause air bubbles to develop in your teeth. You’ll notice a growing pain that mirrors the altitude changes if any of the following apply to your teeth:
- Recent dental work: You should be fine to fly even if you’ve recently had dental work, including surgeries, done. However, if your teeth are still feeling sensitive, you may struggle with some discomfort while flying. Consult with your dentist about your flight before departing if possible.
- Fillings: Older fillings and fillings that need to be refilled are causes for concern during a flight. Air can enter the space between the tooth and the filling. If the pressure changes faster than that air can equalize, then the air in the tooth will expand and cause some pain.
- Cracked teeth: Similar to the problem with fillings, cracks are especially vulnerable to pressure-related pain. Air can enter these small spaces and then expand as you change altitude, causing some discomfort during your flight.
- Early tooth decay: Your teeth may have felt fine on the ground, but if you’ve got tooth decay that you haven’t noticed, flying may lead to some new pains.
- Already-sensitive teeth: There are several causes of sensitive teeth, including poor dietary habits (e.g., drinking too many acidic beverages) and a receding gum line. If you’re struggling with these problems before you get on a plane, you can expect an increase in tooth pain and sensitivity during your flight.
- When You Should See a Dentist About Sensitive Teeth While Flying
- It’s worth checking in with your dentist if you experience any pain in your teeth while flying — even if the pain disappears once you land. This is because healthy teeth shouldn’t become sensitive because of altitude changes. A dentist can check for early signs of tooth decay and correct whatever caused your sensitivity before it gets worse.
Finally, make an emergency dental appointment if you’ve recently undergone surgery and notice swelling, redness, or an unpleasant taste in your mouth after traveling. These are all signs of infection.
If you have questions about flying with tooth problems, feel free to call us at 610-489-5555