Divers risk sore teeth

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Scuba divers might want to consider a trip to their dentist before taking their next plunge, according to a study published in November’s issue of the British Dental Journal.

This found that 41 per cent of divers experience painful dental symptoms while under water.

The research, conducted by a team led by Vinisha Ranna, a student at the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine in the US, involved creating an online survey that was distributed to 100 certified recreational divers. The goal was to identify the dental symptoms that divers experience and detect trends in how or when they occur.

Of the 41 participants who reported dental symptoms, 42 per cent experienced barodontalgia (a squeezing sensation felt in the teeth), 24 per cent described pain from holding the air regulator in their mouths too tightly, and 22 per cent reported jaw pain. Another five per cent noted that their crowns were loosened during their dive, and one person reported a broken dental filling.

“The potential for damage is high during scuba diving,” said Ranna,

“The dry air and awkward position of the jaw while clenching down on the regulator is an interesting mix. An unhealthy tooth underwater would be much more obvious than on the surface. One hundred feet underwater is the last place you want to be with a fractured tooth.”

The study also found that pain was most commonly reported in the molars, and that dive instructors who require the highest level of certification experienced dental symptoms most frequently. This frequency is likely attributed to more time spent at shallower depths where the pressure fluctuations are the greatest, explained Ranna.

As scuba diving gains popularity as a recreational sport, Ranna said she hopes to see oral health incorporated into the overall health assessments for certification.

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