Even when you’re dreaming about vacation, there’s no place like home–especially a dental home base. “Prevention isn’t only taking care of your teeth,” Dr. Messina says. “It’s establishing a relationship with a dentist.” If you can, schedule your next regular visit before your trip. “Have a thorough exam so we can spot any problems before they happen,” Dr. Messina says. You’ll have peace of mind, and your dentist will have the most up-to-date information on your teeth, including x-rays.
Have your dentist’s contact info handy in your cell phone or keep a business card in your wallet. “If you think you need to talk to somebody, you probably do,” Dr. Messina says. In fact, more dental emergencies can be resolved over the phone than you might think (especially if you keep up regular visits). “As a patient, it’s hard to know the difference between something that needs to be treated right away and something that can wait until you get home,” he says. ”That’s what we are here for.”
If you are out of the country and absolutely in need of a dentist, Dr. Messina recommends getting in touch with the local consulate or U.S. embassy. “While talking to the concierge at the hotel is OK, ask the consulate and their employees for a recommendation,” he says. “It’s an independent recommendation and not someone who may be driving business because of a contract or to a relative.”
Sunscreen? Check. Phone charger? Check. Toothbrush? Oops. If you find yourself temporarily without a toothbrush, Dr. Messina says you can rinse vigorously with water to wash away some of that cavity-causing bacteria. You could also put some toothpaste on a clean washcloth or your clean finger in a pinch. When you finally get to the nearest drugstore, look for a toothbrush with the ADA Seal of Acceptance. If there aren’t any Seal products, buy the softest brush you can find.
Letting your toothbrush air dry is how you keep your toothbrush clean at home, but that’s not always possible on vacation. What’s a traveling toothbrush to do? “I’m a big fan of resealable plastic bags. Keeping your toothbrush clean and out of contact with other things is more important that making sure it’s dry on vacation,” Dr. Messina says. “A bag keeps your toothbrush separate from everything else in your luggage. When you get there, pop it open and let your brush air dry.”
Chewing sugarless gum can help relieve ear pressure during a flight – and help keep cavities at bay on vacay. Research shows that chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after a meal can help prevent cavities. That’s because it gets saliva flowing, which helps wash away cavity-causing bacteria. Sugarless gum with the ADA Seal is guaranteed to do the trick.
If you are in a country where the water supply is compromised – or you’re on a wilderness adventure but aren’t sure how clean the stream is – always use bottled water to brush. “Don’t use the local water to brush your teeth,” Dr. Messina says. What happens if you accidentally get local water on your toothbrush? “Get a new one if you can,” he says. “If that isn’t possible, rinse your brush well with bottled water to reduce the risk of getting sick.”
If you let brushing and flossing slide – or indulged in too many sweets while away – don’t beat yourself up. “Just get back on your normal routine of brushing twice a day for two minutes and flossing when you get home,” Dr. Messina says.