Dealing With Dental Issues While Traveling
Traveling abroad, whether for business or pleasure, is often an exciting proposition. Unusual sights and new destinations will usually fill an international travel itinerary. A dental emergency can present an unpleasant roadblock to any type of travel, but international travel can be especially problematic. Dealing with dental issues while traveling can be challenging, but there are ways to navigate the process for swift resolution.
Examples of Dental Emergencies
An issue with the mouth may or may not be a true dental emergency. If an accident occurs that involves a tooth being completely knocked out, loosened significantly, or moved out of alignment, these events constitute dental emergencies. A fractured or cracked tooth generally involves serious damage to the tooth, so this type of occurrence would also be a dental emergency. Tissue injuries in or around the mouth can also be dental emergencies. Examples of these types of situations include serious puncture wounds; tears in the mouth, lip, or cheek; and injuries to the tongue. If you are unable to control the bleeding within 15 minutes, this type of injury would be a dental emergency. Any situation that involves severe pain or bleeding to the mouth would probably be classified as a dental emergency. This can also include an acute infection of a tooth or inside the mouth.
- Dental Emergencies
- Overview of Dental Emergencies (PDF)
- Prevention of Tooth Injuries (PDF)
- Dental Emergencies
- Handling Dental Emergencies
- Dealing With Dental Accidents
- Information About Dental Emergencies
- Common Dental Emergencies
- More Americans Visit ER for Costly and Inefficient Dental Care
Managing Without a Dentist
It may be possible to use first-aid or self-help treatments to manage the situation without a dentist. If a fracture occurs to a tooth, clean the injured area gently with warm water. Cover the tooth with sterile gauze to keep air and cool liquids away from it. Place a cold compress over the face at the site of the injury to control swelling. See a dentist as soon as possible. When a tooth is knocked out completely, try to locate it immediately. When you find it, touch it only at the crown, never at the roots. Rinse the tooth under water if it is dirty, but do not scrub it. Place the tooth into a cup of cool milk to preserve it. Get emergency dental care as soon as possible. If extreme pain or toothache occurs, rinse out the mouth with warm water. Examine the site of the pain to determine whether a foreign object might be lodged between teeth or under the gums. Take over-the-counter medication to manage the pain until you can see a dentist. If a cut or laceration occurs in the lip, cheek, or tongue, apply pressure directly to the wound with a clean cloth to stop the bleeding. If you cannot make the bleeding stop within 15 minutes, seek care at a hospital emergency room.
- First Aid for Dental Emergencies (PDF)
- Dental First Aid (PDF)
- How to Deal With Tooth Emergencies
- No Dentist? Oh No!
- What to Do if a Tooth Is Knocked Out
- Toothache First Aid
- Filling in With an Emergency Kit: A Minor Dental Problem Can Seem Major on the Road
- Tooth Problems
Finding a Dentist When Traveling Internationally
When you do need to find dental care abroad, call your dental or travel insurance 24-hour hotline to receive a referral. This hotline assistance should also be able to give you help with translation, if necessary. Other options for finding dental care in a foreign country include the American embassy located in a specific country or a hotel concierge. When you arrive at the dental office, ensure that the care you receive meets basic standards. For example, all instruments should be sterilized, and the professionals must wear new, sterile gloves for each patient.
- Where Can I Find Low-Cost Dental Care?
- Don’t Let a Dental Emergency Ruin Your Vacation
- Emergency Department Use for Dental Conditions Continues to Increase (PDF)
- Emergency Dental Care for the International Traveler (PDF)
Coverage Before Traveling
Purchasing travel insurance is an excellent way to ensure that you have international coverage for any health issues that could occur while you are out of the country. Prior to traveling internationally, contact your dental insurance provider to get information about international coverage. It’s likely that you will not need to use this information during your travels, but knowing what to do in an emergency helps if one does occur. Get information about the coverage you will have if you need to consult with an international provider. If you have ongoing dental issues that could necessitate care while traveling, bring along dental records so you can provide them to any dentist you may need to see.