3 Tips for Dealing with Dental Emergencies When Travelling

Posted on: 15 December 2017


Getting a toothache or other dental trauma when you're away from home can be very stressful. You may not know where to go, particularly if this happens in a new town. This article highlights three aspects of dealing with dental emergencies when you're travelling. Read on to learn more. 

1. Find help in advance

Just like you take time to search for good accommodation and transport in your new location before going, find out where you can find emergency services in case there's a problem. This is especially important when travelling with children or going abroad or to remote locations. You can talk to your regular dentist or dental insurer for a referral, and if that fails, look online to find a practitioner near you.

In addition, schedule a dental check-up just before your trip in case you have chronic dental problems like gum disease. There's probably little you can do to prevent sudden trauma, but at least flare-ups of common problems can be caught and treated before you leave.  

If you've had a procedure like root canals, allow adequate time for recovery and check-up before you leave for your trip to avoid infection and pain caused by pressure changes on the plane.

2. Carry out first aid

Second, you should know what to do in the event of dental trauma before going to the doctor to mitigate the damage and reduce pain. Here are some common problems and what to do:

  • Toothache – rinse with warm salt water and then floss gently to ensure no food particles and left in the teeth. You can hold an ice pack against your jaw on your way to the dentist's

  • Broken/knocked-out/cracked tooth – rinse with warm salt water and place the broken chip/tooth in milk or water. A cold compress will reduce swelling and pain. Rinse a knocked-out tooth but do not scrub or try to remove tissue fragments. If bleeding, bite on a clean bandage or piece of cloth if the tooth won't hold in the socket

  • Soft tissue injury – rinse and apply a cold compress as you head to the dentist. You can hold a clean piece of cloth on the bleeding site

If you can't reach a dentist during your emergency, head out to the nearest hospital or clinic after first aid. Do not try to wait until your dentist can be reached after dental trauma.

3. How to identify emergencies

It may be easy to identify traumatic or painful events requiring immediate attention, but sometimes, seemingly innocuous symptoms can indicate more serious problems. For instance:

  • Lost teeth – adults shouldn't lose teeth, so call a dentist if your tooth falls off, even if it was painless. This is especially true if you have or have had gum disease

  • Swollen jaws – if your jaw appears larger and has a little tenderness, it could be anything from swollen lymph nodes and infected acne to cancer, in rare cases.

  • Numbness – if you've been feeling pain and it disappears, it may not be that you've been magically healed. A more likely scenario is nerve damage or abscesses near the nerves, and both need immediate attention

  • Metallic taste – unless you've been licking spoons or pennies, metallic or bitter tastes can be due to broken tooth fillings and other reasons. Schedule an immediate appointment.