Oh No! Now what? What to do when you have a dental emergency while on vacation?

Who doesn’t love a good fun filled family vacay!

But there are many things that can go wrong when your family is on vacation. 

Your flights could get cancelled, your hotel room may not be exactly as the pictures, maybe even your tour gets cancelled… but trusts us, the worst that can happen if to have a dental emergency and not be prepared! 

If your child were to lose a tooth, develop an abscess, or pop a wire in their orthodontics while on vacation, what would you do?

The best advice here is, of course, prevention. So, about a month prior to departure – or at least two weeks before you go – schedule a visit to your dentist.  In order to have an uninterrupted vacation when it comes to dental emergencies, the best thing you can do is be proactive. Go in for a cleaning and have your sensitive teeth checked. Make sure that you build time in your schedule to have root canal treatments completed, cracked teeth taken care of, and address any other issues that concern you. The more proactive you are in caring for your teeth before a vacation, the more successful your trip will be.

Have contact information and addresses ready in case you do have an emergency. You’ll want to do plenty of research before you leave. If you find that you are going to an area that does not provide any adequate dental services, then talk to your dentist before you leave and ask what you can do if something were to occur that causes you to need a dentist.

There is a lot going on in your child’s mouth that can be seen in a physical exam and through X-rays, so this really is your best course of action. 

If, however, despite the best of planning you still encounter an emergency while on the road, here are a few steps you can take until you can see your dentist:

  • Chipped or broken tooth: First, save any remnants that can be found, and have your child rinse their mouth and the pieces with warm water. If there is bleeding, gauze or a tea bag can be used to enforce clotting. A cold compress can also be used on the cheeks to keep down swelling.
  • Knocked-out tooth: Believe it or not, you can actually place a knocked-out tooth right back into the jaw if you’re in a pinch. To do so, rinse off the tooth with warm water (do not scrub it!), holding it by the crown and not the root. Then, be sure the tooth is facing in the correct direction, and place it back in its proper place. If the tooth can’t be reinserted, place it in a small container of milk or water with a pinch of salt, and get to a dentist as soon as possible. In order to save a knocked-out tooth, it should be replaced back in its socket in under an hour.
  • Lost filling: Take a stick of sugarless gum (gum with sugar will cause pain) and insert a piece where the filling once was, or you can use an over the counter dental cement until you can get to the dentist.
  • Broken braces and wires: Sometimes wires can break and end up poking your child’s mouth. With a good supply of dental wax and the eraser of a pencil, you can fix this problem on your own. Use the end of the eraser to guide the wire back into place, or to a spot where it’s not causing any pain, and then cover the end with wax.  Never, ever cut the wire, as it can accidentally be swallowed, or inhaled into the lungs.
  • Abscess: An abscess is an infection that occurs in the area surrounding the root of a tooth, or near the gumline. To relieve pain and assist in drawing to the surface the pus that develops, your child can rise with a mild salt water solution of (1/2 teaspoon of table salt to 8 ounces of water) several times a day. Remember though, an abscess is serious, and medical attention is necessary to prevent complications.

Things to Bring with You

  • Clove Oil: This pain reducer is your best friend with you have a tooth ache of any sort. It can be purchased at your local health food store for only a few dollars.
  • Dental Wax: Can be used for broken or bent orthodontic wires as well as crowns that may have become dislodged. Remember to save the crown so it can later be re-attached.
  • Phone Numbers: Bring along the contact info for your child’s dentist and orthodontist, should your family have one, and the number of a recommended dentist in the state to which you’re traveling.