Diving and oral health are more related than they seem as the mouth and teeth are used in scuba diving, an underwater activity that uses a self-contained breathing apparatus called scuba.
What is a “Diver’s Mouth Syndrome”?
According to Dr. Eric Curtis of the Academy of General Dentistry, poor oral health can cause jaw joint pain, periodontal problems, and discomfort in the center of the tooth due to changing pressures while scuba diving. These conditions are clustered together in what is called “diver’s mouth syndrome” which is a common condition experienced by scuba divers but is often masquerade as another condition because its symptoms are usually headaches and face pain.
Although the mouthpiece is a crucial part of the apparatus, Curtis said it could cause problems to the teeth as it’s one size does is not a suitable fit for most people. It has not changed since its introduction in the 1940s, said Curtis, and continues to pose the same problems for most divers.
The mouthpiece grip requires divers to bite on the blocks which can eventually cause jaw joint stress and inflammation. Combined with the stress of dragging a regulator using your teeth, biting on the blocks increases the likelihood of temporomandibular jaw joint disorder which is characterized by pain in the jaw or face, headache, difficulty in mouth movements, and ringing in the ears.
Curtis recommends customizing the mouthpiece, especially for frequent drivers. However, if despite adjusting the mouthpiece TMJ is still a problem, take a break, take some medications, and apply a hot compress to the affected area. Also, talk to an expert for proper treatment and prevention of TMJ.
What is a “tooth squeeze”?
Poor oral health is also problematic when it comes to scuba diving. Air bubbles are usually released when diving. These bubbles can get trapped on the cracks and holes on the teeth and expand, leading to “tooth squeeze” or even an exploding tooth in rare cases.
A tooth squeeze can cause a toothache or a break or chip on the tooth. You can subside the pain with an over-the-counter pain reliever like Advil. Still, to prevent the occurrence of tooth squeeze, getting your teeth treated for cavities, infections, chip, and the like is recommended. Dentists also advice completing the dental treatment first like a root canal procedure before scuba diving to prevent air bubbles from getting inside an unfinished dental procedure.
People wearing dentures are also cautioned to see their dentist before diving. Although they say it is safe to wear dentures, it won’t hurt to take precaution, especially with partial dentures as there is a chance of swallowing them. Same with dentures, people under orthodontic treatments like braces are also recommended to see their dentist and checked for the safety of the orthodontic device. Biting down on a mouthpiece while on braces can stress the teeth and make them tender or sore. Detachable parts of braces like springs and wires can also present a chewing hazard.
Another advice of dental experts is to always be ready for dental emergencies by bringing an emergency kit. When a dental emergency arises, make sure to see a dentist immediately.