Rapid altitude changes are known for increasing the pressure in your eardrums, but did you know that atmospheric pressure can also affect your teeth? Called “tooth squeeze” or barodontalgia, this phenomenon can affect anyone who ventures to extreme environments.
Gases contract or expand to match the level of pressure around them. Since air is a gas, any pockets of air in your teeth will also expand or contract. In normal environments, these changes would be too small to notice. But in any extremely high-pressure environment (like under the ocean), or a low-pressure environment (like in a plane or on a high mountain), the effect on your teeth will be intensified.
Why would there be air in your teeth? Tiny leaks around fillings, crowns and dentures can allow small amounts of air to enter the teeth, setting the stage for barodontalgia. Untreated tooth decay can also create small holes in your enamel that allow air to get in.
Tooth squeeze is more likely to affect people who go through frequent or sudden changes in atmospheric pressure, such as:
You are less likely to experience barodontalgia if you have healthy, intact teeth. Your risk goes up if you have fillings or have had other restorative dental work done. Untreated decay or infection that is currently painless can also become worse under pressure.
The effects of barodontalgia can include:
Before. If you expect to explore the skies or the bottom of the sea soon, these tips can help lower your chances of barodontalgia:
During and after. Are you currently experiencing tooth squeeze? Here’s what you can do:
Last updated March 17, 2022
The oral health information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.