Q: Is it true that pressure changes while flying or scuba diving can be harmful to teeth and cause an abscess?
A: Groucho Marx used to say on his show “You Bet Your Life”: “The secret ‘woyd’ is: barotraumas. (I cannot believe my spell check recognized barotraumas, but not Groucho! Obviously a 20 year old wrote this program.)
Barotraumas describe a physical injury caused by a rapid or extreme change in air pressure. These areas include compromised teeth: teeth with inflammation, necrotic (dead) pulps or inadequate, leaky dental work.
Boyle’s law states the volume of a gas is inversely proportional to the ambient pressure. Meaning, if you have a leaky filling or an already abscessing tooth, scuba diving will exert pressure on any air trapped in the nerve canals or under faulty fillings. If you are flying, the trapped air would expand and could cause intense pain.
Make sure you see your dentist to examine your dental work with intra-oral cameras and digital X-rays to find problems before your next dive or your next flight.