Avoid divers mouth syndrome and tooth squeeze

  Before you go scuba diving, see your dentist because this sport can lead to jaw joint pain, gum tissue problems, or “tooth squeeze”–pain in the center of the tooth caused by the changing pressure.

All of these symptoms add up to “diver’s mouth syndrome,” a condition of the mouth that is caused by the mouthpiece and by the air pressure change involved in scuba diving — a sport that is enjoyed by about 4 million enthusiasts in the United States. “Diver’s mouth syndrome” is also called barodontalgia, according to General Dentistry, the clinical journal of the Academy of General Dentistry.

“Most standard scuba diving rubber mouthpieces are usually too small for most,” says Eric Curtis, DDS, and spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry, who is also a scuba diver. “Divers are typically exhilarated when they dive, although they have to drag a bulky air regulator through the water with their teeth. They may bite too hard into the mouthpiece, which could lead to jaw joint pain and gum lacerations.”

At first, divers may not notice the discomfort in their mouth caused by an ill-fitting mouthpiece because they are so distracted by the thrilling scenery of colorful fish and graceful corral reefs. But when they conclude their dive and pull off their mouthpiece, they may notice the jaw joint pain caused by clenching too hard onto the mouthpiece or gum lacerations.

“If the jaw joint pain persists longer than a few days, the diver should consider visiting a dentist to evaluate for possible temporomandibular joint syndrome,” says Dr. Curtis. The dentist may construct a custom-fitted mouthpiece for scuba divers to avoid such problems.

“Tooth squeeze is the other problem associated with scuba diving,” says Dr. Curtis. “If there’s a big cavity, a filling that’s broken, gum disease, periodontal abscess or incomplete root canal therapy, the changing pressure of scuba diving can become extremely painful.”

“Be sure you’re in good dental health before you go scuba diving,” says Dr. Curtis. “Be wary of scuba diving if you’ve just had a tooth extracted that caused an open space in your gums, or if you have only temporary fillings. Be very cautious if you have dentures or partial dentures — they can be inadvertently swallowed during a dive.”