Scuba diving is a popular pastime among Austin residents thanks to Lake Travis and our proximity to the Gulf. But a recent study suggests scuba divers and snorkelers should pay special attention to their oral health and maintain regular checkups with their dentists.
Scuba Diving and Dental Health
About 41 percent of scuba divers experience symptoms of dental problems while in the water, according to University at Buffalo research published late last year. The most widely reported symptoms among the survey of 100 certified recreational divers included:
- Tooth pain caused by pressure changes, medically known as barodontalgia
- Tooth and gum pain associated with holding air regulators in place
- Jaw pain from clenching air regulators
Some divers also noted loose dental crowns and broken dental fillings. The study found that pain was most common in the molars, and that dive instructors experienced a higher rate of adverse symptoms.
Dive in with Your Dentist
The study’s authors are expanding their research. Their initial findings, which were published in the British Dental Journal, include a recommendation that divers address potential tooth decay and any problems with dental restorations prior to diving.
Divers who have recently undergone dental work should consult with their dentists before resuming diving. Those who dive regularly and suffer jaw pain should consider the possibility of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).
Scuba Diving and TMJ
The new research is not the first time scuba diving has been linked to oral health conditions. Between 15 and 20 percent of snorkelers and scuba divers are believed to experience TMJ, according to a bulletin from the Divers Alert Network.
A poorly fitting mouthpiece or the habit of clenching the mouthpiece can overstress the jaw joints and muscles. The body’s position while diving or swimming for long durations can place further tension on joints and muscles in the neck and jaw.
If you notice jaw pain accompanied by chronic headaches, discomfort in the neck and shoulders, and ringing in the ears, it’s advisable to talk about with a neuromuscular dentist about whether you may have TMJ. Temporomandibular joint disorder can often be treated with a comfortable, custom-made oral appliance designed to hold your jaw in an optimal position.
Austin neuromuscular dentist Dr. Dan Matthews has extensive experience helping patients find long-term relief from TMJ’s painful symptoms. Dr. Matthews also offers comprehensive cosmetic dentistry and restorative dentistry services designed to enhance the appearance and health of your smile. Please call our Bee Cave Road office at 512-452-2273 to schedule your consultation.