Every year, right around this time, many families choose to head south for the holidays. Rather than stick around to enjoy the snow, gift giving and holiday treats, they decide to trade it all for sun, sand and sitting poolside. But just because you've decided to put a pause on your day-to-day life, doesn't mean your teeth and mouth will do the same. Dental emergencies can occur whether you're 3km from home or 3,000km and knowing how to manage these emergencies can be the difference between an enjoyable vacation and a ruined one. Whether you’re suffering from a toothache or a cracked tooth, there are options available to you abroad that will allow you to get the treatment you need without sacrificing your trip and heading home early.
Continue reading below for a list of common dental emergencies and what you can do to fix them abroad.
Before we dive into the real dental emergencies, it’s worth noting that it is common for travellers to experience minor toothaches when flying. This is due to the change in air pressure. Air enters your teeth through an existing crack or cavity and then expands because of the air pressure change associated with flying. If you experience this, remember that it is common and that it should disappear shortly after you land.
Finding a Dentist
The first step to fixing any dental emergency is seeing a dentist. And while this is a rather easy task back home, it may not be as easy as you think abroad. If you've purchased travel insurance, we suggest starting by contacting your provider for a list of nearby dentists that will accept your coverage. If you don’t have travel insurance, then you should speak with your hotel/resort’s concierge for a referral or contact your country’s embassy. Regardless of where you’re travelling, most countries have certified dentists that provide the same quality of service and care as many Canadian dentists.
In some cases, a traveller's toothache may not disappear after landing. If this is the case for you, we suggest starting by brushing, rinsing and/or flossing to see if something lodged between your teeth is the culprit of your tooth pain. If the toothache persists after doing this, you can choose to take painkillers to help you deal with the pain until you return home, or if you can't wait, you can visit a dentist for a diagnosis and remedy.
Broken or Cracked Tooth
Unlike toothaches, a broken or cracked tooth should be dealt with immediately. As soon as possible, you should rinse your mouth out to remove any blood or bacteria and then place ice or some other cold compress on the outside of your cheek. At this point, you should contact the dentist you have been referred to or visit the emergency room at a hospital. After arriving, either team of health care professionals will be able to examine your problem and provide the necessary treatment. These professionals will also instruct you on post-emergency protocols to ensure your recovery is as enjoyable and problem-free as possible.
Sometimes a dental emergency can involve a tooth (or multiple teeth) being completely dislodged from a traveller's mouth. If this happens to you, we urge you to follow the steps below very carefully as the chance of saving the tooth decreases after only half an hour.
- Make sure to handle the dislodged tooth as little as possible and if you need to handle it, hold it by the crown (the part that would be visible if the tooth was in your mouth).
- If the tooth ended up falling to the ground or floor after being dislodged from your mouth, you should rinse it off with water. Be careful not to touch the tissue or place the tooth in a cloth of any sorts.
- After rinsing the tooth, if possible, you should place the tooth back in its socket and hold it in place using gauze or some other form of compress. If the tooth won’t stay in its socket, however, we suggest transporting it in a cup of milk.
- Head to the dentist as quickly as you can. There, they’ll further sterilize your mouth, wound and tooth and do everything they can to help save your dislodged tooth.
When it comes to dental emergencies involving a dislodged tooth, urgency is the most critical factor. The quicker you deal with the crisis, the better off your tooth will be and the more likely that it can be saved.
Lost Crown or Filling
Over time, crowns, fillings and other dental hardware can lose their bond to your teeth and sometimes become loose or even come off your tooth completely. If this happens while travelling abroad, you can purchase dental cement or adhesive from most drug stores and use it to reattach the filling or crown to your tooth until you can see your dentist. Ideally, you should attempt to visit a dentist for assistance, but if it’s not possible, temporary dental cement or adhesive should do the trick until you return home. Once home, you should contact your dentist immediately.
Not all dental emergencies involve real teeth. Travellers with dentures can experience emergencies too, and they typically involve broken dentures or dentures that no longer seem to fit. These travellers should refrain from attempting to fix their dentures themselves and should look for a dentist that offers denture repairs and adjustments. If this isn't an option, you should aim to stick to soft foods to minimize the discomfort and pain caused by eating until you can return home to your regular dentist.
Dental emergencies are and always will be a severe situation that anyone can experience. While they can be quite stressful and unpleasant, it's important to remain calm and know how to deal with them to ensure you experience as little pain and discomfort as possible. If you suffer a dental emergency and don't know what to do, you can always try contacting our office for guidance and assistance. And while our hours are extensive, we know that sometimes we may be closed when you try calling. We hope that you now have a better understanding of how to deal with various dental emergencies on your own and feel prepared to overcome any uncomfortable dental situation regardless of where you are in the world. If you have questions regarding anything discussed above or would like to discuss your dental needs for an upcoming trip, we encourage you to get in touch with us. Our team would be more than happy to help in any way possible.