When Mountains Speak of Dental Woes: How Higher Altitudes Can Help You Identify Dental Issues

Mountain climbing is beneficial to your health in many ways. For instance, a study found that spending time at high altitudes could help you to lose weight. A lesser known health benefit; however, is that while at high altitudes, you may actually become aware of dental issues that you would not have otherwise been aware of.

In essence, while climbing a mountain, you have your very own dental alert system.

The Tooth Squeeze (Barodontalgia) Let's You Know There's a Problem

Barodontalgia is known by several names. Divers call it "tooth squeeze" and pilots refer to it as "flyers toothache." While it doesn't yet have a nickname in regards to mountain climbing, barodontalgia certainly becomes an issue if you're climbing a mountain with underlying dental problems.

As you ascend, or descend as in the case of diving, you encounter a gradual change in air pressure. Healthy teeth with good dental work won't be affected by these air pressure changes. However, if your teeth are compromised in any way at all, you will likely begin to suffer from sharp, stabbing pains and an uncomfortable sensation of compression in the affected tooth.

This is referred to as baordontalgia and can alert you to a number of dental issues that should be treated by a dentist as soon as you return to normal altitude.

You Could Have a Cavity

If you have a cavity, even a small one, and it is deep enough to allow bacteria access to the pulpal chamber, which houses the nerve, you will suffer from barodontalgia while climbing.

This happens because air bubbles become trapped within the tooth due to the changes in air pressure. This air will then be compressed, irritating the nerve.

The Tooth May be Infected

When bacteria are able to access a tooth, infection will soon occur. If the pulp dies, the bacteria within the tooth will begin to feed on the necrotic tissue. Just as humans do, bacteria produce gases. This gas can become trapped within a tooth, leading to barodontalgia while at altitude.

You May have an Abscessed Tooth

A periapical abscess occurs when the pus from an infected tooth builds up at the tip of the root. Naturally, the gases produced by the bacteria will be affected at higher altitudes due to the air pressure changes.

Your Dental Work Might be Compromised 

If a filling or crown is either ill-fitting or compromised in some way, air may also become trapped between it and the tooth. Barodontalgia will affect this air, causing a toothache.

As you can see, mountain climbing comes with the added benefit of giving you your own dental alert system. If you experience barodontalgia whilst climbing a mountain, make sure you visit a dentist as soon as possible upon returning from your journey. Even when the pain subsides once you have returned to a normal altitude, that doesn't mean the problem does not need addressing. Listen to your mountaineer dental alert system and seek dental aid at a local dental clinic whenever you experience barodontalgia.