Imagine sailing across the crystal-clear blue waters of the Bahamas when you suddenly face-plant on a slippery deck and dislodge a tooth. Or, picture waking up in the middle of the Indian Ocean with a throbbing toothache that over-the-counter pain meds won’t touch. Ouch!
Dental emergencies can happen at any time—even when hundreds of nautical miles separate you from home and your trusted family dentist. And more than an inconvenience, they can be painful, stressful, and, at times, a danger to your health.
According to a French study published earlier this month, dental emergencies occurring most frequently on water range from dental abscesses (51.8%) and tooth decay (33.3%) to dental fractures (8.9%)—all of which can be problematic with no special equipment or dental specialists on board.
What’s more, a recent pilot study led by Vinisha Ranna, DDS, at the University of Buffalo in New York, found that recreational scuba divers may indeed experience dental symptoms during a dive. The study's results, which were published in the British Dental Journal in November 2016, indicated that most of the problems reported were due to barodontalgia, an acute toothache caused by the increase in pressure underwater. But study participants also reported jaw and dental pain caused by clenching the regulator mouthpiece too tightly, as well as loosening of crowns and gum pain.
Today we're going to show you how to prevent and manage dental emergencies at sea, step by step.
To do that, we spoke with Herb Benavent, DDS, a dentist and avid sailor who, in 2017, took time off from his family practice in Maryland for a multi-year sailing adventure with his artist wife, Maddie, aboard their Morgan 45 sailboat, Wisdom.
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It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical or dental advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical or dental advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the DAN Boater website. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor, dial 911, or contact emergency services nearest you.