A painful toothache or a dental emergency far from home is a traveller’s worst nightmare. Far away from your regular dentist, with a bagful of plans and things to do, what options do you have? Which dentist to call and where to find one abroad? Check out these tips on how to take care of your dental problem on the road.
Prevention is essential
Make an appointment with your dentist before you leave for your trip. This is especially important if you are travelling to developing countries or remote parts of the world, where quality dental care may be hard to find. Have a complete dental check-up done and your teeth cleaned. If you are anticipating a root canal treatment, do it well ahead of time, so you avoid potential infections, as well as pain triggered by air travel. An article in the Journal of Education and Health Promotion warns that despite the availability and effort to introduce hepatitis B vaccination, the vaccination rate among dental practitioners has remained alarmingly low in developing countries. Immunization against HBV sounds like a good idea when travelling to the developing world.
While travelling, you should avoid chewing ice, popcorn kernels, hard candy, or anything that may damage your teeth. Neither should you use your teeth to cut tape or remove price tags. However, even if you’re careful, an emergency may occur, so you should know what to do on the spot. In case of a toothache, start with rinsing your mouth with warm water. Use dental floss or interdental cleaner gently to make sure there is no food or other debris remaining between the teeth. Dentists advise against putting aspirin or other painkiller against the gum or near the aching tooth, as these medicines are designed to dissolve in stomach acid, and may burn the gum tissue.
In an emergency
In case of breaking or cracking, clean the area by rinsing with warm water, use cold compresses to minimize swelling and seek a dentist’s help immediately. If your tooth is knocked out, hold it by the crown and rinse the root of any debris. Do not remove any attached tissue. If you can’t hold it back in its socket, put it into a cup of milk and head to a dentist as soon as possible. Alternatively, you can place the tooth in Save-A-Tooth solution, which increases the tooth’s survival rate up to 24 hours. Still, your tooth has the best chances if it’s implanted back by a professional within one hour. If you lose a dental filing it’s good to know that drug stores sell products that can act as temporary fillings and keep the exposed area covered.
On a plane
What started as a dull aching sensation may develop into annoying pain once you take off. The air in your body is trying to adjust to the pressure inside the plane, and while healthy teeth won’t be affected, any dental problems can be amplified. You may even feel pain in teeth that were fine on the ground, mainly those with fillings or those in the beginning stages of decay. That’s why it’s important to take care of any dental issues before flying. If your dentist approves, you may take prescription or OTC painkillers 30 minutes before boarding. Onboard, avoid hot drinks such as tea or coffee, as well as sugary drinks.
Finding a dentist abroad
In Australia, as well as most European countries, the level of dental care is on par with the most of the U.S. If you have travel insurance, their 24-h hotline can direct you to a qualified dental specialist, such as DentalFresh in Sydney, which has an on-site dental lab and a team of practitioners able to attend to your problem with a fully-coordinated approach. You may also get referrals from your hotel concierge or the country’s dental association.
With all the stressful nuances of travelling today, an emergency dental situation is the last thing you need. But although you are far from your trusted dentist, if you take all the necessary precautions and know where to look for assistance, even a cracked tooth or a broken crown won’t set you back from achieving your goals.