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How to Manage Dental Emergencies While on Vacation

Your bags are packed, your neighbor’s watching your dog and here ye go! It’s time to kick back and enjoy your much deserved vacation.

The last thing you need to put a damper on your good mood and a great time is a tooth problem.

Dang it.

I’ve had people call me from the next town to across the country. What do I do because my tooth . . . . ?

No fear, ladies and gents. I’ve slogged, toiled and burned the midnight oil to put together a vacation dental emergency guide so YOU can gallivant gleefully.

For starters, if you’re having any dental issues, get them checked out or at least mention it to your dentist before your departure. Often it’s something simple and easily taken care of, and worth having peace of mind.

Here is a list of the most common dental ailments that might hitch hike with you, and what to do about them.

1. I chipped my tooth!

More crunch in your food that you expected? If you chip a tooth, find a mirror and try to locate it. Sometimes the tooth enamel chips, other times an old filling. Don’t panic. Hi-five yourself if there’s no pain, avoid chewing on that area, and call your dentist as soon as you get back in town.

2. My tooth is sensitive —> here!

If a sip of iced tea makes you curse out loud in front of your in-laws, blame it on a sensitive tooth. Or not.

Sensitivity to cold may indicate that something more than tea is a-brewing, like a cavity. Politely apologize for your outburst (*wink) and make a note to call your dentist asap. Avoid cold drinks/foods, and chew on the other side. Cursing, however, is optional.

3. My (temporary) crown came off!

Who wouldn’t be upset at losing royalty status?

First off, grab the loose crown (“cap”) before you swallow it. If all looks fairly normal, head to the nearest drugstore for some denture adhesive (because stealing from Grandma is wrong). Find a mirror, and try to fit the crown back in. Practice a few times. Dry with cotton, dab on the adhesive, put the crown back on your tooth and bite for 30 seconds. This should get you back to your merry meandering until you get home.

Can’t get to a drugstore? Try some toothpaste. Do NOT head for the super glue.

If the crown doesn’t go in like before, put it in a safe place till your dentist can check it. Also see #1.

4. I have a tooth ache!

Yikes! No way to slice it, this one ain’t fun. If you can tolerate ibuprofen, try that first. If the pain gets progressively worse, chances are it’s an infection and needs attention. Call your dentist (or their emergency number after hours) and describe your symptoms. Most likely your dentist can call in antibiotics at the nearest pharmacy to get it under control. If unavailable, head to an emergency room.

5. My tooth broke!

Ooph. Before you hit the panic button, take a deep breath. Count your blessings if it’s not a front tooth, and the break was painless, if uncomfortable. Avoid chewing on that side and you’ll be able to hang in there if the break was small. If you’re in pain, see #4.

If it does happen to be a front tooth, you may be in deep spit. This is probably an important enough reason to find a local dentist and be seen on an emergency basis, if only for a temporary replacement till you get back in town and see your own.

For international travels, the same rules apply, but I would stress a thorough dental check-up before your trans-oceanic trek.

I will add that I may be enticed to join you should you encounter a dental emergency in any location that has the words “Riviera”, “Tuscany” or “Southern coast” in it.

This article was originally published on

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