There is little to rival toothache in the pain stakes, although mentioned in the Open water Course, tooth pain whilst diving is a rare but significant concern for those who have had root canal or filling work. This month our medical team looks at the causes and ways to prevent this unpleasant experience.
Like most uncomfortable things when diving, tooth pain is all about the airspaces. In normal circumstances your teeth consist of a solid mass of dentine and enamel with a core of nerve and tissue. These substances are incompressible, however add some trapped air and trouble can ensue. Take a tooth which has started to become diseased with a hole or two which has been filled, or a crown which has perhaps not been properly fitted and the potential for trapped air arises.
What actually happens is that as the diver breathes pressurized air, it can make its way into the cavity underwater. As we learn in the Open Water Course air breathed at depth can expand on ascent. This expanding air presses on the nerves and causes a kind of pain which sufferers have called indescribable. The same can happen with a dislodged or badly fitted crown. Unfortunately if you get this on a dive there is little more to do than take the pain and ascend as slowly as possible hoping that some of the air escapes. Possible temporary relief can sometimes be provided by sucking the tooth to assist the removal of the trapped air.
Sadly this is something which can occur without warning and you will not be aware of the issue until it happens. Thankfully it is also a rare situation and certainly nothing those of you with fillings need to be overly worried about.