Why Does My Tooth Hurt on an Airplane?

When a plane takes off into the sky, we understand that there’s a change in air pressure. We experience this in other ways, such as ears popping, but did you know it can cause toothaches in people with cavities or loose dental work as well?

In this blog from Carlson Family Dentistry, we’re discussing why airplane toothaches happen, what causes them, and how to avoid them in the future. To learn more about how to enjoy your next flight free of tooth pain, then read on.

Cause of Airplane Toothaches

Toothaches on airplanes caused by atmospheric decompression are formally known as aerodontalgia. As a result of the increase in air pressure from flying at high altitudes, air can become trapped inside of your tooth. 

You might be thinking, wait a minute, how could air get inside my tooth, to begin with? Well, herein lies the problem: air can only become trapped in the tooth if your tooth already has small holes inside of it. This can occur in an unfilled cavity, a failing or loose filling, or old tooth restorations that wear down.

Air becomes trapped inside the opening in the tooth, placing pressure on your tooth which causes pain and discomfort. This can also occur in people who don’t necessarily have any holes on openings in their teeth but experience tooth sensitivity.

Unfortunately, the only way to stop aerodontalgia from happening is to fix the root cause of the problem, which is having openings in the teeth. This means getting cavities filled, replacing old fillings or crowns, and any other loose dental work.


Visit the dentist before you fly to ensure that you don’t have any undetected cavities. It’s better to sort this out before you fly instead of paying the price in the air. It’s safe to fly within one day of receiving dental fillings. 

You should also be seeing a dentist every 6 months for regular dental cleanings and checkups to prevent cavities from forming in the first place. Cavities occur as a result of bacteria feeding off of starches and sugar inside of the mouth to produce acids. 

These acids attack your enamel, causing enamel erosion, which eventually leads to holes in the teeth, also known as cavities. To reduce your risk of cavities, you should practice good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth twice a day for at least 2 minutes and flossing once a day to thoroughly remove food particles. This presents the formation of plaque and tartar.

It’s also important to have adequate levels of saliva and fluoride. Prevent dry mouth by staying hydrated and refraining from eating after brushing your teeth at night, as saliva production slows down while you sleep.

Fluoride offers protection against cavities and can even stop and reverse tooth decay in its early stages. If you don’t drink fluoridated water or have access to it, you may need to speak to your dentist about using fluoride toothpaste or mouthwash, and receiving fluoride treatments.

Prevent Airplane Toothaches With Preventative Dentistry at Carlson Family Dentistry

The only way to stop aerodontalgia is to ensure you have no holes in your teeth where air can become trapped and place pressure on your teeth. By practicing good oral hygiene and regularly attending dental visits at Carlson Family Dentistry, you will reduce your risk of developing cavities. If you need a filling or need to repair old dental restorations, contact us to schedule an appointment with Dr. Cade or Dr. Carlson.

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