A new pilot study at the University at Buffalo reveals the fact that scuba diving enthusiasts may have more to worry than their regular checkups. A substantial number of people who practice scuba diving experience dental problems during and after the dive, from simple discomfort to more severe conditions.
A Common, But Ignored Problem
The lead of the pilot study, Vinisha Ranna, who is also an enthusiastic scuba diver, became interested in the problem after she experienced it herself. In her case it manifested as a squeezing sensation in the teeth, known as barodontalgia. It's not a surprise that such problems may occur, especially considering the difference of pressure felt underwater and the fact that the supply regulator is held between the teeth.
In order to see just how common and severe this problem is, the author of the study sent a questionnaire to 100 scuba diving enthusiasts.
For the purpose of the study, she only used the answers of the divers aged above 18 who also had no severe health problems and did not take decongestant medication. The results were surprising, as 41 percent of the respondents complained of having experienced some dental problems due to scuba diving.
Most of them experienced the same problem like the author of the study, barodontalgia — around 42 percent. A number of 24 percent had problems due to holding the air regulator, which resulted in pain, and 22 percent reported jaw pain. There were also some severe cases of loosened crowns and one case of a broken filling.
The most affected teeth seemed to be the molars. Also, diving instructors seem to be more prone to experiencing such problems, probably due to the fact that they spend more time underwater and go deeper than most other divers.
What Scuba Divers Should Do?
At present, scuba divers who want to receive certification need to have a medical check-up, which does not include a visit to the dentist though. Considering the prevalence of the problems and the risks, Ranna recommends any diver to do so, especially after undergoing any kind of dental procedure.
"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," noted Ranna.
Considering the interesting results of the pilot study, the author is currently working on extending the study in order to include more than 1,000 people. This will provide even better information about how to help scuba divers have a better experience, with fewer risks for their health.