Background: Barodontalgia is dental pain triggered by a change in barometric pressure and can be severe enough to cause in-flight incapacitation. There is a large variation of in-flight barodontalgia incidence in the literature and most of the current epidemiological data on barodontalgia has been compiled from military aircrew. The aim of this study was to evaluate the frequency of barodontalgia in French military and civilian aircrew.
Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted in 2010. The pilots and crewmembers attending 10 medical units of the French Air Force and Navy, and 5 dedicated to civilian pilots and aircrew were given a standardized and anonymous questionnaire to complete regarding demographic and professional characteristics as well as their barodontalgia.
Results: Out of the 1475 questionnaires distributed, 1184 responded (response rate of 80.3%), and 6.6% of these participants (N = 74) reported at least one event of barodontalgia during their career (95% CI: 5.1-8.1%); 43 (6.8%) from the air force and 31 (6.5%) from a civilian service. Median pain intensity during barodontalgia was evaluated at 5.5 out of 10. Pain appeared most commonly during descent (47.3%) and was more frequent below 8000 m. In 10 cases (13.5%), the pilots reported that barodontalgia could have compromised flight security.
Discussion: Despite the improvement of aeronautical equipment and the quality of dental care, barodontalgias were still present in 2010 in the French military and in civilian aircrews. We recommend prevention programs be established in order to minimize the frequency of barodontalgias and their potential repercussions on flight safety.