Dental Health Topics

Oh, No! A Dental Emergency While Away from Home.. Now What?

Oh, No! A Dental Emergency While Away from Home.. Now What?

There are a many things that can go wrong when your family is on vacation. You can have a hungry bear rummage through your campsite at night, or, a thief could steal your purse as they zoom by on a Vespa. Or, you could have a dental emergency, which for some, could make the bear and the thief scenarios seem like child's play. 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 Scouts Have It Right

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. 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 can be used to enforce clotting, or a tea bag if you have access to one. 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 abscesses 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 should this happen, 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.
Traveling overseas? These contacts might prove handy:
  • A local hotel concierge
  • The American Embassy in the country you are traveling
  • American Military Personnel
  • The International Association For Medical Assistance To Travelers — a network of doctors and medical institutions around the world – (www.iamat.org) (716) 754-4883.
  • In Europe – American Dental Society of Europe (ADSE) (www.adse.co.uk) Phone: 011 44 141 331 0088