Do you find that your jaw aches or your teeth hurt
after a long dive? Does the pain mysteriously disappear
once you've surfaced?
A new pilot study by researchers at the University of
Buffalo found that 41 per cent of divers experienced
dental symptoms in the water. Due to the constant
clenching of that regulator mouthpiece and fluctuations
in the ambient pressure underwater with varying
depth, divers may experience symptoms that range
from tooth, jaw and gum pain to loosened crowns and
broken dental fillings. So, you may want to stop by their
dentist's before taking your next dip in the ocean.
Vinisha Ranna, lead author and a student in the UB
School of Dental Medicine say, "Divers are required to
meet a standard of medical fitness before certification,
but there are no dental health prerequisites."
The study, entitled "Prevalence of Dental Problems
in recreational SCUBA divers," was published last
month in the British Dental Journal.
The research was inspired by Ranna's experience
learning to scuba in 2013. Although she enjoyed it, she
couldn't help notice a squeezing sensation in her teeth,
a condition known as barodontalgia. Of the 41 people
who participated in her initial research, 42 percent
experienced barodontalgia, 24 per cent discomfort
from holding the regulator mouthpiece too tightly and 22 percent reported jaw pain. Five percent noted the
loosening of crowns and one person suffered a broken
The study also found that pain was most commonly
reported in the molars. Active dive instructors experienced
dental symptoms most frequently of all, likely
attributed to more time spent at shallower depths
where the pressure fluctuations are the greatest. With
more than 24 million certified divers around the world,
Ranna hopes to see oral health incorporated into the
overall health assessments for diving certification.
She says that patients should ensure that dental
decay and restorations are addressed before a dive, and
mouthpiece design should be evaluated by qualified
dentist practitioners to prevent jaw discomfort, particularly
when investigating symptoms of temporomandibular
joint disorder in divers. TMD is a problem affecting
the 'chewing' muscles and the joints between the lower
jaw and the base of the skull.
Ranna is conducting a follow-up study with an
expanded group of more than 1,000 participants. "An
unhealthy tooth underwater would be much more obvious
than on the surface," she said. "One hundred feet
underwater is the last place you want to be with a fractured
Ironically, many dentists are scuba divers.