EIOH to Study How Pressure Changes During SCUBA Diving Affect Teeth

Feb. 6, 2016

diver with toothacheSCUBA (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) divers are subject to unique pressure and volume changes in the course of a dive.  The teeth are also susceptible to pressure and volume changes, as well as temperature changes that may be a part of diving in cold waters.

“After my first dive, my teeth felt funny, although I couldn’t exactly pinpoint what was different,” said Vinisha Ranna, DDS, a PADI and SSI certified Stress and Rescue Diver who is a preceptor in Eastman Institute for Oral Health’s Advanced Education in General Dentistry’s program. “After speaking with the other divers, I was surprised to find that many of them had teeth problems in the course of their dives. As a diver I was relieved; as a dentist I was intrigued. I looked through dental research literature to find some information on this topic, but there were no studies that answered my questions.”

That’s why she has developed a survey to learn more about how the teeth are affected to eventually help and prevent any negative consequences to divers’ oral health.

To date, published research doesn’t provide any data on the prevalence of oral problems experienced by divers, Vinisha said.  But one study* conducted on naval divers, frogmen and submariners showed that frogmen who spent greater time at shallower depths showed the greatest deterioration of teeth in a ten year follow up, in spite of having better teeth at baseline.

The short survey will capture information on the occurrence of dental pain during a dive, the teeth commonly affected and information on oral symptoms frequently reported by the SCUBA diving population.

“We want to assess whether there is an association between these variables and the divers’ experience level, diving frequency and diving conditions,” explained Vinisha, who is working closely with Dr. Hans Malmstrom, chair of General Dentistry and AEGD program director.  “We’re looking forward to sharing the survey results with divers and dentists. It’s important for the diver and his or her dentist to be aware of these changes and their effects in order to provide the best treatment."

If you are a certified diver, please fill out the survey.  If you'd like a copy of the results, please send us an email.

About Vinisha Ranna

Vinisha RannaVinisha Ranna is from Pune, India.  She earned her dental degree at Government Dental College, Mumbai, India.  Her love for being in the water triggered her interest in learning to SCUBA dive. She is studying as a preceptor at UR Medicine’s Eastman Institute for Oral Health, and is conducting this study with Dr. Malmstrom, who is also a SCUBA diver.

I love every minute of diving. I previously designed and conducted a survey to find out the type and frequency of teeth problems in divers. The results were astounding:  41% of the divers surveyed  experienced some teeth related disorder during a dive. Considering that the regulator (breathing apparatus) is held in the mouth, any tooth problem could jeopardize the diver’s safety. A toothache is definitely not something that you want to worry about when you are 100 feet underwater. With this in mind, I refined my previous survey, and am now conducting a more precise study on a much larger scale to create awareness not only among divers, but also dentists. --Vinisha Ranna

*Robichaud R, Mcnally M E: Barodontalgia as a differential diagnosis: symptoms and findings. J Can Dent Assoc 2005,71: 39–42