Scuba Diving and Dental Health: Tooth Squeeze

Posted on: 13 November 2017


If you have recently taken up scuba diving, you may not have considered how it may affect your dental health. At first, it may seem highly unlikely that diving underwater using professional equipment could cause any harm to your teeth. However, there are a number of dental issues which can occur when scuba diving. Below is a guide to one of the most common issues, tooth squeeze.

What is tooth squeeze?

Tooth squeeze is the common name for a condition called barodontalgia. Tooth squeeze occurs when there is a small air bubble inside a tooth. The most likely cause of an air bubble is a filling. When your dentist fills a cavity in a tooth, a small amount of air may become trapped between the tooth and the filler material. In day-to-day life, these small air bubbles do not present a problem. This is because the external air pressure and the air pressure within the cavity are more or less the same. However, when you go scuba diving, the water which surrounds you causes the external pressure to increase. As the ambient pressure of the water increases, the air which is trapped within your filling will expand. However, this expanding air has nowhere to go, and so instead, it will press against the nerves inside the tooth, resulting in a sharp, constant pain as the tooth is 'squeezed'. In extreme cases, the change in pressure causes the filling to become loose or to disintegrate. There are reports of divers losing up to 5 fillings during one extremely deep dive.

What should you do if you experience tooth squeeze?

If you are diving and you experience tooth squeeze, you should stop your descent and then slowly return to the surface as you have been trained to do. As you ascend and the water pressure falls, the pain should stop. You should then visit a dentist and request an x-ray. The x-ray will allow the dentist to identify which fillings have air trapped inside them. Once these fillings have been removed and refilled, you should no longer experience this problem. If you are diving and you lose fillings or crowns as a result of tooth squeeze, you should see an emergency dentist as soon as possible to have repair work carried out to restore your teeth and prevent infection.

If you would like to find out more about looking after your teeth while scuba diving, you should book an appointment with your dentist today.