Travel Myth Buster: Flying with fresh dental work
| Travel Tips By

Travel Myth Buster: Flying with fresh dental work

Today’s topic is teeth, pearly whites and dentist work pre-travel. Have you ever been told you shouldn’t fly with a fresh dental filling? There seems to be a general fear on travel forums of travelling right after visiting the dentist, is it stress without a cause?

There are two sides to this travel myth, a top and a bottom, just like inside your mouth. First of all there are the horror stories of a handful of unfortunate individuals who swear that their dental work done right before their trip “ruined their holidays in Mexico.”

On the other side are those individuals who also had dental work done before their trips and didn’t feel a thing during their flight. So who’s right? And what’s the deal?

The low down:

Changes in altitude while on a flight may cause some minor discomfort for passengers who have recently had dental work (fillings, root canals, etc.) done. This is different for everyone according to their teeth sensitivity, how close the dental work was to a nerve and pain tolerance.

How to deal:

To help lessen the pain, take an advil or other pain reliever (following the instructions of your personal physician) before your flight. The anti-inflammatory properties of the drug with definitely help with any discomfort.

Another solution is to make sure that all of your dental work is done one month to two weeks prior to any trips. If your dentist appointment is within a few days of flying, let your dentist know so that no procedures which might cause pain during air pressure changes are done. Changes in air pressure can also cause minor pain and discomfort to cavities and loose fillings.

Have you ever flown right after dental work, how did you feel during the flight?

Travel myths are everywhere, but we’re busting them one at a time.

Img: alistairhall, Flickr cc.

15 comments

  • Mary Crawford Reply

    Not only limited to flying but also altitude changes while driving through the mountains. I had a sensitive tooth over the holidays. On our way home we must travel through the mountains. I felt like my teeth and ear was going to explode as we climbed the mountain. I cried in pain with no relief from pain relievers. The next morning my dentist performed an emergency root canal and started me on antibiotics. Absolutely the worst pain of my life traveling through those mountains. Please address all dental concerns before traveling. I also understand scuba divers have this problem as well.

  • Sarah Bailey Reply

    Well I’m a flight attendant and I have had many fillings and a crown fitted the day of travel so I can tell you from my experience it is a myth! Just the usual pain one would expect after a visit to the dentist.

  • Jay Reply

    I had 7 fillings done about 4 days before my flight Pennsylvania. First flight went well no pain or popping….about midway through the second flight, pop, pop, pop, pain, pain, pain!!!! I’ve been taking Advil every 8 hours for the last 5 days to ease the pain.

  • Centura Reply

    I googled what I could on this plane because I had all my teeth capped last week,and I am dying up here. My whole mouth is aching severely. I just took a Tramadol and it’s been :20 minutes of suffering. I had no problem on the ground. After we took off the ache set in.

  • Stephanie Reply

    No, this is not a myth. I had a chipped tooth filled four days before going on a business trip.

    I was in manageable pain the entire week, but upon my return flight and now, four days later, it is excruciating and not just the tooth, but behind the eye, ear, lower jaw and neck. Went to ER for pain meds to tide me over until my dentist can see me. The ER doc said they see this alot and flying can exacerbate tooth issues like infections and abcesses as well.

  • Lex Reply

    This is definitely not a myth. Please be forewarned people! I’m writhing in pain as I’m writing this and waiting for the earliest dentist to be open. I had a pulectomy done on a second molar which was affected by a wisdom tooth. Basically the procedure involves removing the nerves and filling it up. As I was on my flight to Bangkok for new year celebrations, I experienced an immense pain in the roof of my mouth and all around my affected tooth. Totally brought a new meaning to the word pain. I was very close to getting emergency help. Had to pop painkillers and pray in order to survive the ordeal. Thank god the flight was only 2 hours. Hence my advise is please avoid air travel if you’ve had a dental procedure done which may cause air pockets to form. You wouldn’t want your holidays ruined. I had to skip the whole new year celebrations because of the pain.

  • Alexander N. Reply

    I have a similar, yet unique situation. A week ago my tooth has cracked nearly touching the nerve. I have had a temporary filling put in place shortly thereafter. I cant get a root canal now, because my insurance takes two weeks to reply on average.. I have a 3 hour flight scheduled in 3 days. The situation is made worse by the fact that I am taking a drug called Naproxacin for arthritis pain. You cannot mix that drug with any other painkiller. So ifthe excruciating pain does occur I cannot make it better. Dentist said it will be okay. I read comments which say that a temporary filling will not prevent the pain related to the air pressure changes during the flight. I am scared and thinking of cancelling my vacation. If anyone can provide insight, share experience on this matter I would be ever grateful.

  • Lauren Reply

    I just had to reply to this thread because I want to make sure nobody has to go through what I went through. I went to a dentist before my trip to the USA from Canada for holidays. I had 2 fillings done the same day as the flight and my dentist knew about the flight and said I would be fine. I had no pain leading up to the flight but as soon as the plane got in the air I got the worst pain possible in one of the teeth. I described it like being shocked repeatedly by an electric fence. It was so painful that for the entire 4 and a half hour flight I was crying holding my mouth and shaking. I thought when the plane landed it would be better but I still got shocks for 2 days following the flight and couldn’t eat anything. To make things worse I am now terrified of flying so I had to pay 2000 dollars to cancel my return flight and rent a car to drive back. I don’t know if I can ever get on a plane again. Just awful. Do not fly after a filling thus is NOT a myth

  • Jen Reply

    I had a filling two weeks before going long haul and had terrible tooth ache the whole holiday! And for a month after i got back. Thought i was gonna have to get the filling done again, but luckily it’s fine now. Phew!

  • Sandy Reply

    No this isn’t a myth. I had dental work done in Poland, no pain, and flew back two days later. About ten minutes into the flight – POP – I thought one of my teeth had exploded with pain. Searing pain and, as the pressure in the cabin changed, the tooth kept going ‘pop’ ‘pop’ with fresh pain searing up my cheeks, into my jaw. Had to call a stewardess (even though teh seat belt sign was still on) and ask for painkiller. She said this was common, she had plenty of patients who’d had fresh dental work and got pain into the flight. Two days later, the nerve is still throbbing. So, no, it isn’t an urban myth, believe me.

  • Alex perry Reply

    I have just flown out to Antigua for my honeymoon after having a temporary filling as I need for a root canal that needs to be done when I return home. Without a question the most painful experience of my life. Pain killers did not touch it the airline spoke to medical team on the ground and gave me a tiny pill that seemed to take effect after about half hr. Am currently looking for a dentist here to put a pinhole in the filling to avoid the same on the way home. Again this is a rare case as a filling would not normally leave an air pocket so close to the nerve and I believe a root canal removes the nerve , just if you’re unlucky enough the be somewhere between the 2 proceedures :(

  • Stephen Prowse Reply

    My 18 yr old daughter had a large filling about 2 weeks ago and I just collected her from the airport. She had acute pain under a filling on both legs of a round trip. It seems most likely to expansion of a residual small pocket of gas where the filling is close to the nerve. So not heresay, real for an unlucky few and if persistent the filling will need to be replaced.

    • Katie Reply

      Interesting to hear Stephen, thanks for the comment! Maybe the best rule is to not fly so soon after a filling when there can still be residual gas, that just sounds uncomfortable!

  • David Nicholls Reply

    I agree with Michael, I haven’t come across this problem apart from hearsay

  • Michael Steinberger Reply

    I believe that this is mainly one of those Urban Myths.
    There is always some discomfort after dental work and this varies according to the individual, the severity of the dental problem etc. It is impossible to measure whether any discomfort experienced during a flight would have occurred on the ground. It is unlikely that anyone will do a scientific study of this.