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September 2018    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 44, No. 9   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Is Your Mouthpiece Causing You Pain?

from the September, 2018 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Do you get pain in the jaw joint or ears after a long dive? Do you suffer clicking or grinding noises in the jaw joint, or sometimes suffer difficulty opening or closing your mouth? Do you suffer discomfort while chewing, or sometimes find difficulty in clearing your ears? If you yawn carelessly, can you find that your jaw gets stuck? Worse still, do any of those symptoms combine with a feeling of nausea or dizziness?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ), or jaw joint, is a hinged and gliding joint, and is the most constantly used joint in the body. Positioned as it is forward of the ear, you can feel it by putting a finger against it and moving your jaw up and down or side to side.

Temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD) is not specifically associated with diving, but some scientific studies have shown that the prevalence is likely to be exacerbated by use of a traditional scuba mouthpiece for long periods, and that women are more likely to suffer with TMD than men. The harder you grip the regulator mouthpiece with your teeth, the more likely you are to encounter problems, because the jaw is open and pushed forward, and a twisting intermediate hose can add further grief. Do you find that you chew your way through regulator mouthpieces?

So, what's a solution? Instead of using a traditional regulator mouthpiece that you need to bite, swap your mouthpiece for one that you don't. Aqua Lung has a Comfobite mouthpiece (around $12) that hangs on the front teeth instead of being gripped by the molars. If you don't consider your front teeth resilient enough, what about one of those moldable Mares Jax mouthpieces (around $24) that you heat up and fit to suit your teeth, almost like a gum shield, so that you don't really need to bite down on it? It's the same idea as the SeaCure Custom Mouthpiece, which was created by an orthodontist and recently lost its patent.

Although TMD in diving has been studied over the years, it is not generally known about by divers, and not taught as a diving disorder. However, we should try to make our diving experiences as comfortable as possible and avoid this possible painful result of using an inappropriate mouthpiece. Your local dive store will be able to help.

-- Condensed version of an article in the British magazine Scuba

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