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A Dental Emergency on Vacation

By Rachel Moody, MBA on June 13, 2016 in Dental Care Basics

A dental emergency is never fun, but it is especially troublesome on vacation. When you are far from home and your usual dentist, it’s a stressful situation, particularly if you aren’t sure what to do. There are things you can do, however, before, during and after dental emergencies on vacation that can help alleviate stress and facilitate the best possible outcome.

Pre-Vacation Preparation:

Luck favors the prepared. Mitigating the chances that a preventable dental emergency occurs on vacation is excellent pre-vacation preparation, which includes:

  1. Scheduling a checkup: Mention any sensitive areas or concerns you have before the exam so your dentist can diagnose any potential issues to a perceived problem area. He or she can then consult whether you need treatment before you leave.
  2. Attending to known problem areas: Finish treatment on any outstanding dental work before you leave. Schedule the root canal you have been putting off or address that cracked tooth you have been “living with” over that recent weeks.
  3. Gathering all the pertinent information: Get together your dentist’s information, including his or her email, and your dental insurance policy number. Make a contact entry on your phone or write it on a piece of paper and tuck it someplace safe. You will appreciate having this information handy if you do encounter a dental emergency on vacation.
  4. Using common sense: Avoid crunching ice, chewing popcorn kernels or chomping on hard candy while traveling. If you have braces, don’t bite into apples or eat taffy and other sticky foods. Be sure you don’t use your teeth for opening bottles!

Taking precautionary measures like these can help avoid some dental emergencies on vacation, but they can’t prevent them all. If you do have a dental emergency, the important thing is to act fast to preserve the tooth and alleviate discomfort. Here are a few common dental emergencies and what to do right away:

  • Broken tooth: Rinse your mouth and any chips or pieces of the tooth with warm water. Use ice applied to the cheek (outside the mouth) to reduce swelling. If there is bleeding, use gauze for about 10 minutes or until the bleeding stops.
  • Lost tooth: The goal is to get the tooth back into the socket as soon as possible. Teeth returned to the socket within an hour of getting knocked out have the best chance to recover. To do this, hold the tooth by the crown (the top, not the roots) and rinse it in warm water and then replace it in the socket facing the proper direction. Yes, put it back in place in your mouth if you can. If this doesn’t work, put the tooth in a glass of milk or water with a pinch of table salt.
  • Lost filling: Sugarless gum can serve as a substitute filling until you can get the tooth fixed. Sugared gum can cause pain. Another option could be an over-the-counter dental cement.
  • Lost crown: Replace the crown on a temporary basis using toothpaste, over-the-counter dental cement or denture adhesive.
  • Loose or broken braces bracket, band or wire: For a loose bracket, use orthodontic wax to reattach it temporarily. Save a loose band for your next orthodontic visit. For broken wires, use an eraser on a pencil to push the end back into place, so it doesn’t poke your gums, cheek, or lips. Other options can be a coating the tip with orthodontic wax, cotton ball, or gauze.

Now that you have handled the immediate concerns, it’s important to find a dentist the area who can help you. The good news is adequate dental care is available in large part of the world, so the chances are you will find a quality dentist that can get your vacation back on track in no time.

Here are some online resources for finding a qualified dentist when traveling:

In the U.S.:

  • 1-800-Dentist: Start by entering a zip code and other pertinent information, including why you need to see a dentist, to narrow down providers to the area that take your insurance and match your current need.
  • Find an ADA Member Dentist: The American Dental Association (ADA) has a location service for their members at their site
  • This online service allows you to read reviews of the doctors in the area so you can pick out the one you feel comfortable trying.

Outside the U.S.:

  • The American Dental Society of Europe: These dentists are members of the society who live and work in Europe but studied in the U.S. or Canada.
  • IAMAT: This organization helps you find English speaking doctors all over the world. You will need to be a member, but it could be worth it to get you in touch with a dentist or medical professional that can help you when you are traveling abroad.
  • Board Certified Asia Dental Association: While many sites for finding a dentist abroad are targeting those that would participate in Dental Tourism, they can also be handy for finding a dentist in the part of the world in which you find yourself.

Other suggestions:

To download a helpful PDF from the ADA with suggestions of how to prepare and what to do when you have a dental emergency abroad, please click here.

Dental emergencies on vacation happen all the time. Be sure to prepare before your trip, act fast if you have a problem, and use the resources available to you to find a qualified dental professional that can treat you to facilitate the best possible outcome—for your tooth and your vacation.



“Handling Dental Emergencies.” Web. 11 June 2016. <>.

“Prepare for Unexpected Dental Emergencies Before Vacation.” 25 June 2010. Web. 11 June 2016. <>.

“What to Do about Dental Problems When Traveling.” Web. 11 June 2016. <>.

“Dealing with Dental Emergencies on Vacation.” 27 August 2015. Web. 11 June 2016. <>.

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