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What to do about dental problems when traveling

It’s a traveler’s nightmare – a painful toothache or other dental emergency when you’re far from home. What should you do? When should you call a dentist? And how do you find one? Here’s what to do when you’re on the road and your teeth need attention.

An Ounce of Prevention – Before you leave

It’s a good idea to have a dental checkup before you leave on your trip, especially if you’re traveling to developing countries or remote areas. And have your teeth cleaned, particularly if you have gum disease or you will be away for a long time.

Once on the road avoid chewing ice, popcorn kernels & hard candy. And don’t use your teeth to cut tape or other materials.

When Emergencies Do Happen – While you’re away

Even with sensible preparation, emergencies do happen, and here’s what to do.


  • Clean your mouth by rinsing with warm salt water.

  • Gently use dental floss to ensure that there is no food or other debris caught between the teeth.

  • Never put aspirin or other painkiller against the gums or near the aching tooth because it may burn the gum tissue.

  • If the pain persists, contact a dentist.

Broken Tooth

  • Rinse your mouth with warm or salt water to clean the area.

  • Use cold compresses on the area to keep swelling down.

  • Contact a dentist immediately.

Cracked Tooth

  • Apply cold compresses to control swelling.

  • Go to a dentist or a hospital emergency room.

Knocked Out Tooth

  • Hold the tooth by the crown and rinse off the root of the tooth in water if it’s dirty. Do not scrub it or remove any attached tissue fragments.

  • If you can’t hold the tooth back in its socket, put the tooth in a cup of milk and get to a dentist at once.

  • An alternative is to place the tooth in Save-A-Tooth solution which may help increase the tooth’s survival rate. The highest survival rate, however, occurs when the tooth is implanted by a dentist within one hour.

Finding a Dentist Abroad If you have travel insurance, the company’s 24-hour hotline can refer you to qualified dental care when you’re travelling, as well as provide translation help, if needed. In addition, many countries have dental associations that can provide referrals. Dental referrals may also be available from the hotel concierge, the Canadian Consulate or Embassy in the country you are visiting.

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