Dental Hygiene While TravelingBy Andie Tuggle, DMD
A Vacation For Your Mouth
Ah, the holidays – a time when you get to visit family and enjoy spending time with loved ones. And, with decreasing COVID numbers and increasing vaccination rates, we hope this year will be a more “normal” holiday season.
But just because you take a break and travel to see family, does not mean that your everyday life takes a break on you – specifically your oral health. And just because you change up your routine for a week or more does not mean that you should forget about maintaining good dental hygiene.
That especially goes for your kids, who, if they fall out of a routine such as brushing and flossing, will find it much harder to regain their oral health practices.
Therefore, it is important to remember that you must stick to a few procedures and habits – no matter when and where you trek. There are also some other things you can do before you go on a trip or vacation that will help keep your family’s teeth and gums in great shape.
With that in mind, let’s look at the steps every family should take to maintain strong oral hygiene while traveling.
- Make sure you are current on your oral health appointments. This may seem odd, as it’s not something you will do while traveling. However, it can help ensure that you do not run into trouble while on your trip. If you have any check-ups scheduled before your holiday, or if you are experiencing any oral pain or discomfort before your vacation, you should be seen by a dentist or oral healthcare expert BEFORE you leave. This will not only ensure you have more enjoyment on your trip – by taking any pain or worries off your mind – but could also save you a panicked visit to a healthcare professional while on your trip should things suddenly take a turn for the worse. An emergency trip to the dentist could also end up costing you more in the long run, not to mention the stress of seeing a dentist you don’t know. This is especially important should you be going to a country where dentistry is not a priority.
- Buy oral health travel tools. Make sure you get over to your local retailer and grab a replaceable toothbrush that you don’t mind using only for the duration of your trip. You should also buy a toothbrush holder and travel toothpastes, dental floss and mouthwash in order to ensure that you have all angles of oral health covered. The reason you do not want to bring your home toothbrush is that travel exposes a toothbrush to more germs and bacteria than by simply sitting in your bathroom, and you do not want to expose your teeth to that constant stress. Therefore, you should buy a disposable brush for use only during your trip. It is the same reason you want a toothbrush carrier. The carrier is much more sanitary than simply dropping your brush into your toiletries kit.
- Grab some sugar-free gum. It is always a good idea to have some gum that is sweetened with xylitol handy – but especially during vacation. Xylitol is a nonfermentable sugar alcohol that can provide several dental health benefits while not encouraging cavity growth. It won’t fully replace brushing, but it will help clean food particles off your teeth while also improving your breath. Travel, especially by plane, can put you in a pinch logistically, and xylitol gum can act as a support to your normal oral health practices.
- Be prepared – just in case. While you may take great care of your teeth and gums, there is always a risk of accident, infection, or other detriment. Should this happen, you’ll be glad for a little prep work before you leave. First off, always have your dental insurance card with you on a trip. It is also a good idea to have the contacts of your home oral healthcare professionals handy should you need to call them to ask advice/for help. Also, find out if your home dentist is a member of any international branch associations and ask your insurance provider about options for emergency procedures in the area you are traveling to.
- Carve out time to brush. It’s easy to get carried away having fun and forget your routine of morning and evening oral healthcare. Therefore, it is doubly important to maintain these schedules while on the road. If you can make it known that there is a specific time every day, you’re less likely to forget it or have your kids get annoyed that it is hijacking their vacation time.
- Make sure to clean your toothbrush holder during your trip. It’s almost impossible to get your toothbrush completely dry before throwing it into its travel case. And while it sits – damp – inside that holder, it is the perfect environment for bacterial growth. The good news is that a quick cleaning can discourage that eventuality in a few simple steps. First, rinse your toothbrush and holder thoroughly under hot water. Make sure that no scum and/or toothpaste residue remains. Next, place your toothbrush and toothbrush holder in a small container of anti-bacterial mouthwash for 30 seconds. Pull it out and rinse it in cold water. Then, dry both your toothbrush and toothbrush holder as much as possible. If you have time and space, lay them both out to completely dry. NOTE: Every time you take your travel brush out to use, rinse it in hot water first.
If you complete these steps before and during each and every vacation you will ensure optimal oral health – no matter your travel destination, style or logistics.