Whether you're going on vacation, leaving on a business trip, or traveling to see relatives, one thing's for certain: Airplanes and toothaches don't mix.
What Causes an Airplane Toothache?
If you have a minor toothache before getting on the plane, you might think you can make it through your trip and go see your dentist as soon as you get back. When your flight crew closes that cabin door though, cabin pressure changes the further up that plan goes in the air.
For everything to work in perfect harmony, the air pressure in your body must be equal to the cabin pressure. Since cabin pressure fluctuates regularly throughout your flight, even minor toothaches can suddenly become unbearable. This occurs because air gets stuck inside decay pockets or areas where you've hand dental work, like fillings.
Because the trapped air inside your tooth can't stabilize quick enough with the changes in cabin pressure, you start to feel pain. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to remedy that dreaded "airplane toothache."
You probably already know that taking an over-the-counter pain reliever can provide some relief for toothaches, but it takes a while for the medication to kick in. Assuming you can get your hands on it, that is. These quick remedies can help in the meantime.
Warm Teabag Compress
One of the best things you can do is ask your flight attendant for a teabag. Ideally, they'll have black or green teabags upon request. These types of teas are full of tannic acid, which is a naturally-occurring substance that's known for reducing swelling and clotting blood. Simply place the teabag in just a small amount of hot water, just enough to make it soft and warm. Place the teabag near your painful tooth and gum. Try to keep your mouth closed, so that warm moisture stays inside.
Salt Water Rinse
If you've ever gargled warm salt water when you have a sore throat, you know just how healing this simple blend can be. Salt water increases the pH balance in your mouth so that bacteria have a hard time surviving. Swishing around warm water mixed with a salt packet can disinfect your teeth and gums, which could help improve your tooth pain. As an added bonus, swishing around salt water can even help pop your ears, if they feel plugged up with the change in cabin pressure.
Hydrogen Peroxide Rinse
Your flight attendant has access to a well-stocked first aid kit, so ask if they can get you some hydrogen peroxide. Mix the hydrogen peroxide with an equal part of warm water and rinse for at least 30 seconds. You're going to want to rinse just a few more times with plain warm water to get rid of any lingering hydrogen peroxide.
According to a study published in the May 2016 edition of the Journal of International Society of Preventive and Community Dentistry, patients who rinsed twice daily with the hydrogen peroxide solution had significantly less pain from gum recession, mouth sores, gingivitis, and similar soft tissue problems. Plus, just as with the salt water rinse, your ears get the added benefit of pressure relief.
Because a toothache can be a sign of serious decay or an abscess, make sure you see your dentist as soon as you can after your flight lands.