Dental Emergency Q&A: Why Did My Tooth Hurt While Flying?

airplane toothache for dental emergency

I thought I had a real dental emergency on my hands. Yesterday, I took a flight across the country for my sister’s wedding. I felt totally fine before I got on board, but no sooner than we took off, my tooth started screaming. I mean, it was some of the worst agony I have felt in my whole life. It radiated all across my upper jaw. I even texted my mom and asked her to find me a dentist and get me scheduled right away. That’s how bad it hurt. And, it lasted the whole flight. However, shortly after landing, I started to feel better. It was the weirdest thing ever. My mom didn’t find a place that could get me in right away, so I’m not scheduled anywhere, but I’m supposed to return home at the end of the week. I’m a little afraid to go back on a plane, but don’t want to waste what little time I have here with family either. Is this just one of those flukes- do some people just get random toothaches while flying- or does this mean there’s something wrong I should get checked out? Most importantly, what’s the likelihood that I’ll be in pain during the return flight?



Dear Adele,

Sorry to hear you had such a rough flight. Here’s one thing you can try really quickly: bend down and touch your toes. Did your face hurt? Or more particularly, your nose and sinus area? If so, what you just experienced was sinus pressure caused by congestion. A lot of people battle allergies this time of year and those with longer roots on their teeth can sometimes feel like they’re getting a toothache. If you’re on a plane and experiencing sinus pressure, it can be much worse. Taking a decongestant before you board will make the trip easier. That said, that’s no way to diagnose. You’d need to have a dentist check out your tooth to see if there’s other contributing factors, such as those outlined below. If you’re worried, it’s always best to schedule an emergency dental appointment.

If you didn’t feel any pressure or pain when bending over, there’s probably something going on with the tooth. For example, if you’ve had work done since the last time you flew, it could be that there’s a tiny air bubble in the material. If it’s trapped, it couldn’t handle the change in pressure and would cause discomfort. That’s fairly uncommon, but still within the realm of reason. What happens more often, however, is that decay is present in the tooth. When this happens, sometimes air can get in, but not back out, creating the bubble effect too.

Any way you look at it, though, this is something you should get checked out before you board a plane again, just to ensure you have a comfortable flight.

This blog is sponsored by Elgin dentist, Dr. Steve Sirin. Dr. Sirin’s office offers same-day appointments for dental emergencies, so people can feel better quicker.

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