Dental Emergency While Traveling: What Should You Do?

Don't let a dental emergency catch you by surprise!

Don’t let a dental emergency catch you by surprise!

If you’re planning on traveling anytime soon, you may already have a list of things to do to prepare: Pack your clothes, check the weather, book your flights, figure out accommodations, refill prescriptions that you will need to take with you, and so on. Although it’s probably not the first thing on your mind, it’s also a good idea to know what to do if you were to encounter various types of emergencies while away. One common minor emergency that can come up while traveling is a dental emergency. Whether it’s a lost filling, a broken tooth, or a sudden toothache, this type of mishap can make your vacation less pleasant. Here’s what you should do if you are caught in this situation.

Visit a Local Pharmacy

Unless you’re staying in the middle of nowhere, chances are very good that there will be a pharmacy or grocery store (which should have a pharmacy section, if not a full pharmacy) nearby. Even if you’re in an airport or on the highway, you should be able to access somewhere that carries over-the-counter pain relievers, at minimum. If it’s safe for you to do so, go ahead and take Tylenol, Advil, or something similar to ease the pain of a toothache.

If you’ve lost a filling, you can buy a temporary filling material. Go to the dental care section of the store and look for a small tube or the clay-like material that you can push into the hole. You can also use this to temporarily “glue” a crown back into place. If a broken tooth is sharp, look for orthodontic wax in the same section; this will make you more comfortable.

See a Local Emergency Dentist

If you are staying with family or friends or have someone nearby, they might be able to get you into their dentist’s office. If not, you can always check Yelp or a similar search engine to find a dentist near you who will hopefully be able to help. Many areas also have an emergency dentist who will see patients on weekends, holidays, and even in the evening if it’s a true emergency. Google is your friend and should be able to help you find someone.

In the case of severe swelling or excruciating pain, you can go to the nearest emergency room. They probably won’t be able to treat your dental problem, but the doctors there can give you an antibiotic if necessary and will likely refer you to a dentist or an oral surgeon who can help you.

Call Your Dentist When You Return Home

Even if your problem has settled down, you’re going to want to make an appointment to see your dentist as soon as you can once you arrive home. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring a toothache or forgetting that you put in a temporary filling; it might feel okay now, but it could easily lead to a larger problem later if it’s not taken care of. Call right away while you are thinking of it.

No one wants to deal with a dental emergency while on vacation, but it does happen. Having a plan in mind for what you will do if it occurs will give you peace of mind and will also help you stay calm and take care of the situation if you do wake up with a toothache while traveling.

Creative Commons image by Casey Fleser.