Planning to go scuba diving this summer? See your dentist – NOW!

A study published recently in the British Dental Journal  found that of 100 recreational divers surveyed, 41% had dental symptoms during dives and of these, 42% had barodontalgia. This intensely painful squeezing sensation in the center of a tooth is caused by the expansion of air trapped in the tooth during ascent.


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Whether you are a certified diver, planning to become one or know someone who is, paying attending to dental health before the diving season begins is paramount to preventing  “Diver’s Mouth Syndrome” – a group of symptoms that include jaw joint pain, gum problems or squeezing tooth pain. Diver’s Mouth Syndrome highlights the close relationship between diving and the mouth and teeth, so says Dr. Eric Curtis, a spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry.

For starters, Dr. Curtis reminds us that the scuba regulator mouthpiece is an essential piece of equipment that is one size fits all, but it fits no one. And because it’s held in place by biting down on it with the teeth in the front of the mouth, it puts stress on the jaw joint and leads to inflammation. Add to this the stress from luging the regulator through the water by the teeth and the conditions are perfect for TMJ or temporomandibular joint syndrome  — which includes headache, face or jaw pain, trouble chewing and ringing in the ears.

To decrease chances or prevent jaw, gum or tooth problems:

  • If you dive frequently or are planning too, get a custom mouthpiece. If you already have a mouthpiece, try to adjust it for a better fit. If nothing works and you have symptoms of TMJ after a dive – moist heat and over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) for example, ibuprofen or naproxen.


  • If you are a new diver or are renting equipment for the day, try different mouth pieces for fit.


  • Practice holding the regulator in the mouth while biting down with the least amount of pressure possible.
  • Minimize chances of “tooth squeeze” by having any cavities, cracks, crevices, holes or defective edges of crowns, addressed before hand. These problems can allow air to get trapped which expands during ascent and causes intense squeezing pain, bleeding, or a broken tooth.

For more information:

Different types of scuba regular mouthpieces:

Diving dentistry : A review of the dental implications of scuba diving.

Dive training tips: The diver’s mouth


TMJ Disorders and Diving




Joanna Hayden, PhD, CHES is the principal of Associates for Health Education and Behavior, LLC, in Sparta, a practice focused on improving health through education. Her office offers individual and group health education, and individual health behavior change guidance.  For more information please see  To contact Dr. Hayden, email her

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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