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Dentist Surgery

ISSUE 13 ARCHIVE - DIVING DENTIST

Happy Flossing by Celehte Fortuin

It s been a funny old time, the last few months. The weather has been brilliant (so by the time this issue hits the shelf, mid summer, the summer will be, well, over!), my brain has felt all loopy and threatened to herniate, my arm fell off, but I didn't bother getting that put back and every time I applied mascara, my eyes bled.
O'Three
Now here's the funny thing: Imagine this guys and girls you apply your mascara (there ARE guys who wear this, I don t care what they say), and your eyes start to bleed. I reckon this would generally be followed by a sharp intake of breath, an ear shattering scream and mad rush to A&E. So why, pray tell, when we brush or floss our teeth and our gums bleed, we think, Ah, that's OK, it'll pass ? Why do we accept this as normal? Yet if applying sun protection our skin peeled off, or applying make up made our eyes bleed, we'd seek professional help? Funny old world isn't it.

Q I started diving about a year ago and have just returned from a liveaboard. It was a great experience and even though all went well with the diving, I experienced some problems with my mouth. Half way through the week I started developing bad tooth sensitivity and a fair amount of bleeding from my gums. Now, a few weeks post holiday, the sensitivity has thankfully eased off, but the redness and bleeding gums still continue. I ve never experienced this on dive trips before and was wondering what the cause of this may be? At my last dental visit, a little over a year ago, my teeth got the all clear, but I was told I grind my teeth a lot and given a night guard to wear, which I do. Any ideas?
DD Liveaboards… aahhh the glorious days spent lazing around watching the world drift by. Getting spoilt rotten by the crew, being dressed up in your kit and gently chucked overboard to watch the fishies go by, stroking the odd shark coming by to nibble on your fins, hauled back on board for food, sleep and rest only to repeat the beautiful rhythm again… bliss. Sorry, I just had a little daydream. Back to those little enamel like growths and the gums that surround them which seem to be giving you some trouble.

As your dentist gave you the all clear regarding the teeth and no decay, lost or cracked fillings, etc were diagnosed, there can only be a few other possibilities. Tooth sensitivity during or after extended dive trips is not that uncommon, especially in newer divers. However, with so much else going on, this symptom is often disregardedas oneofthosethings.The sensitivity is down to the breathing of very dry compressed air for up to forty or sixty minutes at a time. Not only does this dry out the oral mucosa all around the mouth, but it also has a drying effect on the teeth. Saliva production rate may be lowered due to factors like stress or dehydration, removing a protective property of saliva through coating the teeth.

Being a bruxer/grinder often leads to sensitivity and this, in combination with an increased number of dives in a short period of time, together with the dry air delivered from our tanks can cause a sharp increase in these symptoms. The solution here is keep well hydrated and use a high fluoride toothpaste, or those specifically designed for sensitive teeth. This is a massive industry in the dental market with a myriad of products out there to choose from.

You have been on shorter dive trips before and never had any trouble with bleeding gums. This rules out any trauma from an ill fitting mouthpiece on the regulator digging into the soft tissues and causing some bleeding. Worn mouthpieces and overextended bite planes too big for your mouth can cause a lot of damage as they move around, creating ulcers and bleeding that is very painful. This is more common with rental equipment, another reason to own your own kit.

Now for the biggie: How s the flossing going? You didn t think I would go a whole article without mentioning flossing did you? Bleeding on brushing or flossing is normally a first sign that you may have a gum infection, known as gingivitis, or the more serious version of Periodontitis. This may have developed since your last dental visit, so a return to the dentist and a visit to the hygienist is the order of the day to get this seen to. The bleeding may have become more pronounced during your dive trip due to the fact that your daily routine of flossing and brushing may have been disrupted.

Alongside this, the drying effects of breathing compressed air on a frequent basis has taken away another protective property of saliva, that being a carrier of the body s immune cells to battle bacteria that causes gingivitis. Dry oral mucosa has a tendency to promote faster growth of plaque and bacteria as the cleaning/rinsing effects of saliva are diminished. This whole experience may have exacerbated an underlying problem that has now established itself. Redness and swelling along the gum line surrounding the teeth is another indication of the severity of infection as the body is trying to mount an attack via the blood supply to get the bad bugs under control. Once you have had a thorough cleaning all around and taken up your daily flossing habit this will settle down.
Ralf Tech
The things to watch out for, especially on extended dive trips, are hydration, hydration, hydration, maintaining your oral hygiene routine (floss every day) and using a good fluoride toothpaste to protect the teeth and gums. This may seem like common sense and very obvious advice, and it is. Should this lapse, problems arise that can be, at best a nuisance on a dive trip and at worst, a continuation of a problem that you are left to deal with for months afterwards.

Safe diving and happy flossing all!

Any questions or queries can be sent here or you can call Fulham Dental Care on 020 7610 9400.
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