It seems like you plan for everything when you’re traveling, but do you have a plan for what to do if you have a problem with your teeth while traveling? It’s inconvenient enough when you’ve got a dental emergency after hours at home, and it’s even worse when it happens in an unfamiliar city or country. What can you do to avoid the need for dental care on your next big trip?
Pre-trip Check-up. The best way to prevent a small problem from suddenly turning into a big problem is an ounce of prevention. Before you embark on your adventure, have your dentist clean, examine, and check your teeth for any problems that might be lurking. This appointment should be several weeks prior to your trip so that there’s plenty of time to address anything that could inhibit you from traveling pain-free!
Don’t Wait! If you go to your dentist and they do find a problem, start treatment right away! The last thing you want is to put it off and suffer while traveling. Problems like a cracked tooth or a damaged nerve can be painful when you’re exposed to air pressure changes (like on an airplane). Also, cracked teeth could become infected while you’re away, causing you discomfort and possibly costing you a substantial amount in faraway dental care costs.
Do Your Homework. Maybe you have a hunch that you might need a dentist while you’re away from home. Discuss your options with your regular dentist or your dental insurer. They might have recommendations for the area you’re visiting. Take this information with you, along with your dentist’s phone number and the phone numbers for any medical, dental, or travel insurance you have.
Pack Smart. It’s better to be overly prepared than out of luck. Here’s a checklist of essentials to take with you on your trip.
- Any medications you’re currently taking
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Dental floss
- Sterile gauze
- Ice pack
- Over-the-counter pain medication (like Tylenol or Advil)
- Dental cement (like Dentemp) as a temporary fix for lost fillings or loose crowns
- Orthodontic wax if you have braces
Be Kind to Your Teeth. Foods like hard candy or popcorn kernels can chip or crack your teeth, so it might be best to avoid those while you’re away. Also, avoid chewing ice on your trip; it can damage your teeth and is generally not good for your oral health. If you need to get a tag off or cut tape and other materials, don’t use your teeth. The front desk probably has scissors that you can use.
Know the First Aid Basics. If you start to experience tooth pain, swish and rinse your mouth with warm salt water. Also, carefully and gently floss between your teeth, removing any food or trapped debris that could be causing pain or irritation. If you start to notice swelling, grab that ice pack you brought along and place it on the affected area.
Ask for a Recommendation. If it becomes clear that you need immediate dental care or advice, ask your hotel, a local hospital, or the American embassy in the country you’re visiting to recommend a dentist that’s close by or has extended hours.
I hope that you’ll never need to use most of this advice while traveling, but it’s better to know and be prepared than face a dental emergency in a new place without a plan! If you do experience dental pain or an emergency while you’re away, don’t forget to set up an appointment with your regular dentist as soon as possible after returning home.
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