After diving it is not uncommon to experience a dull ache or pain in the jaw, which after repetetive dives can leave the diver in substantial pain. Over the course of a 5 day dive holiday this can develop to a level where it can be uncomfortable to dive and detract from the enjoyment of your trip. This month we ask our experts at Sharm’s Hyperbaric Medical Centre what causes this, how it can be treated and more importantly how it can be prevented?
In your mouth and jaw area is a joint called the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ); this is the one which you can feel moving if you were to place your fingers just infront of your ears and move your jaw up and down. The pain that is felt is most probably due to the continuous jaw clenching that you use to keep the regulator in position. Most regulator mouth pieces are a standard shape and size, people are not, this can mean that holding the regulator in place puts the jaw in an anatomically awkward position. Strain on the jaw muscles like the strain on any muscle can cause a dull ache, if exacerbated this can lead to inflamation and increased pain.
This is not a serious condition and a few days without clamping on a regulator (unfortunatlely not diving) is usually sufficient to stop symptoms. Treatment is similar to that for muscle pain in general and can involve alternating between hot and cold packs, taking pain killers and anti-inflamatories. Please remember that persistent or severe pain needs medical treatment from a qualified physician.
As always prevention is better than cure and there are a number of things that can be done to prevent this condition. An orthodontic mouthpiece is ideal, it is softened in boiling water and then moulded to your teeth, these are also have longer bite strips which helps to distribute the workload over the jaw. One of the most popular mouthpieces is the Jax
The heavier the regulator and the more rigid the hoses are, the more you will find you need to grip the regulator with your teeth. Select a regulator which is lighter and has the new more flexible hoses and even look at getting a regulator swivel fitted as it allows a more comfortable angle for the second stage.
Lastly relax when you dive, it is usually the newer or more nervous divers who clamp on to their regulators for their lives, as you become more experienced you feel more comfortable and tension fades.
Dr. Adel Taher & Dr. Ahmed Sakr: your diving docs
If you have any medical queries please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. The most interesting one will be discussed in our next issue.
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