Air Pressure and Tooth Pain: What Happens When You Fly


If you’re a frequent flyer, you might be familiar with the peculiar sensation of tooth discomfort during a flight. For those who haven’t experienced it, imagine settling into your seat, enjoying the in-flight entertainment, only to be rudely interrupted by an unwelcome ache in your molars. It’s a problem that perplexes many, but as your trusted Dentist in Vancouver, we’ve delved into the science behind this phenomenon to provide some insights and solutions.

The Science Behind Air Pressure Changes

Air pressure is the force exerted onto a surface by the weight of the air above it. While this remains relatively constant at sea level, it can significantly change when you ascend to cruising altitudes. As you rise in elevation, the air pressure decreases, leading to a potential imbalance with your body’s internal pressure.

The Anatomy of a Tooth

Teeth are not just solid blocks of enamel; they have a complex structure consisting of an outer protective layer (enamel), a softer inner layer (dentin), and a pulp chamber that houses nerves and blood vessels. Sometimes, due to cavities, dental work, or microscopic channels in the dentin, air can become trapped inside a tooth.

How Air Pressure Affects Teeth

The trapped air in your teeth can create an uncomfortable pressure differential when the external air pressure changes rapidly, such as during takeoff and landing. Think of it like a mini barometer inside your tooth, responding sensitively to external shifts in pressure. It is this differential that likely results in the discomfort or pain you might feel while flying. This phenomenon isn’t just an old wives’ tale; several studies support the link between air pressure changes and dental discomfort. As a Dentist in Vancouver with years of experience, we’ve seen firsthand how such conditions can exacerbate existing dental issues.

Other Contributing Factors

It’s worth mentioning that dry air and reduced humidity in airplane cabins can also play a role in tooth discomfort. The dry environment can irritate sensitive teeth and gums, adding to the problem. Sinus pressure, another common issue in flights, can also contribute to the sensation of dental pain.

Preventive Measures

The best way to prevent in-flight toothaches is to maintain good oral health. Regular check-ups with your Dentist in Vancouver can help catch cavities, gum disease, and other dental problems before they become exacerbated by air travel. If you’re planning a trip, it might be wise to schedule a dental visit before your departure to ensure everything is in tip-top shape.


For immediate relief, over-the-counter pain relievers can be effective. Carrying a small bottle of clove oil and applying it to the affected tooth can also offer temporary relief due to its numbing properties. However, these are only stop-gap measures, and it’s crucial to consult with a Dentist in Vancouver for a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to you.


While the phenomenon of in-flight toothaches can be puzzling, the science behind it is fairly straightforward. The change in air pressure at high altitudes can affect the air trapped in your teeth, leading to discomfort. Taking preventive steps through regular dental care can help mitigate this issue.

Contact Us

If you find yourself frequently plagued by tooth pain while flying, or for any other dental concerns, feel free to reach out to O2 Dental, your go-to Dentist in Vancouver. Our skilled team is here to provide expert advice and treatment to ensure your dental health is at its best, both on the ground and up in the air.