Prepare for Unexpected Dental Emergencies Before Vacation

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PARSIPPANY — Dental emergencies are not fun and can crop up anytime, but when they occur during a vacation, they can put a damper on one’s plans. This is a perfect example of when it is better to be safe than sorry. Although planning ahead will not prevent an emergency, it will ease the pain.

Americans are expected to take 330.6 million domestic personal leisure trips during June, July and August 2010, according to the annual summer travel forecast from the U.S. Travel Association. That is a 2.3 percent increase in summer travel since 2007. According to a survey conducted by Majestic Drug, a provider of dental and personal care products since 1950, one in six people experience a dental emergency each year. Considering those statistics, it is safe to assume that some of those dental emergencies happened while away from home on vacation, and being prepared for them is as important as packing needed medications and personal identification.

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“Getting ready to leave on vacation can be an overwhelming chore, especially when you are in charge of packing for a family. In addition to remembering travel essentials it is very wise not to forget about your teeth,” said Scott Navarro, D.D.S., vice president of professional services and dental director for Delta Dental of New Jersey. “Dental emergencies can’t be 100 percent avoided, but taking a few simple precautions before departing on vacation can potentially eliminate many of them, and any long-term damage to one’s oral health.”

Dental emergencies can happen anytime and can range from painful toothaches to broken, loosened or knocked-out teeth. Whenever dental pain or trauma occurs, it is critical to seek immediate treatment to maintain oral health and possibly save teeth.

According to Suzy Press, D.D.S., of Children’s Dentistry of Morristown, who also is the spokeswoman for the 2010 children’s dental health public service announcement produced by Delta Dental of New Jersey: “Anyone — young or old — should visit their dentist prior to leaving home for an extended period of time. Get a complete dental checkup and a ‘good-to-go’ clearance from the dentist before you leave. Of course, that shouldn’t be the end of your planning. Knowing the steps to take if an emergency arises, and where to go after an incidence occurs, is key.”

Tips for handling dental emergencies

WebMD lists the following guidelines as good to know in the event some common dental problems arise. These tips should be used before you can get to a dentist, which you should do as soon as possible.

Toothaches — Rinse mouth with warm water and use dental floss to remove any lodged food. If swelling appears, hold a cold compress to the outside of the mouth or cheek. Never put aspirin against the gums or on the sore tooth, because it may burn the gum tissue.

Chipped or broken tooth — Rinse mouth and any broken pieces with warm water. If bleeding, apply a piece of gauze to the area for about 10 minutes or until the bleeding stops. Hold a cold compress to the outside of the mouth or cheek to reduce swelling and ease pain.

Knocked-out tooth — Retrieve the tooth, hold it by the crown (the part that is usually exposed in the mouth) and rinse with warm water. Without force try to replace the tooth facing the right way. If that’s not possible, put the tooth in a small container of milk (or a cup of water that contains a pinch of table salt). A tooth that has been knocked out has the highest chance of being saved when it is returned to the socket within one hour.

Extruded (partially dislodged) tooth — Apply a cold compress to the outside of the mouth or cheek to ease pain. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever.

Object caught between teeth — Use dental floss to gently and carefully remove the object. Never use a sharp instrument, because you risk cutting your gums or scratching the tooth surface.

Lost filling — Stick a piece of sugarless gum into the cavity (sugar-filled gum will cause pain) or use an over-the-counter dental cement.

Lost crown — If it is painful, use a cotton swab to apply a little clove oil to the tooth. Try to slip the crown back over the tooth. Before putting the crown back in place, coat the inner surface with an over-the-counter dental cement, toothpaste or denture adhesive to help hold it in place. Never use super glue!

Broken braces wire — If a wire breaks or sticks out and is poking you, use the eraser end of a pencil to move the wire. If that is not working, use orthodontic wax, a small cotton ball or a piece of gauze to cover the wire tip. Don’t cut the wire, because you risk swallowing it.

Loose braces bracket or band — Use orthodontic wax to reattach a loose bracket or place the wax over the braces for cushioning. If a band is loose, save it until you see the orthodontist.

Abscess — These are painful infections that sometimes look like a swollen pimple on the gum, usually at the tooth’s root or in the space between the teeth and gum. Rinse mouth with a mild salt-water solution (one half-teaspoon of table salt in 8 ounces of water) several times a day, which will help ease any pain. It is critical to have this emergency attended to immediately to avoid the infection traveling through your system.

Soft-tissue injuries — Injuries to the tongue, cheeks, gums and lips can bleed easily. Rinse mouth with a mild salt-water solution. Hold a damp piece of gauze or a teabag to the site that is bleeding for about 15 minutes. Also hold a cold compress to the outside of the mouth or cheek for 10 minutes. If the bleeding doesn’t stop, see your dentist right away or go to a hospital emergency room.

One final note to remember is to jot down your dentist’s full name, address and telephone number, plus any significant information about your oral health, and tuck the information into your wallet. Also, be sure to carry your dental benefits policy number.


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