It is never a good day to have a toothache but it can be even more of a pain if you’re traveling on vacation, or on an extended business trip. We certainly hope your travels are never tainted by the nagging pain that is a toothache, but we’ve compiled a few tips you can use just in case.
Your flight is not your friend
Your toothache will get worse when flying. The ever-changing cabin pressure that keeps your ears popping during your flight is to blame for the added pain during a toothache. This is especially true during take-off and decent because that is when barometric pressure varies the most. This happens when the pressure inside your sinus cavities (ears, nose, throat) is no longer consistent with the pressure in the cabin. The way the pressure affects your teeth is by conflicting with the air trapped in pre-existing dental work like fillings, and in cavities and tooth-decay. For example, your cavity is the result of your tooth having decayed and eroded causing a hole(s). The air throughout the tooth differs from that in the cabin, and in the same way it causes your ears to feel clogged, it causes your tooth pain.
Rinse with warm water
Once you get to your destination or even in route if possible, rinse your mouth in warm water, or warm salt water, avoiding hot temperatures. Although salt water doesn’t outright kill germs and bacteria, it does change the pH balance of the mouth just enough to deter the reproduction of many microorganisms. It is also soothing to your mouth and does not irritate the mucous membranes causing your already sore mouth more pain.
Floss in the area
It may seem like common sense not to mess with the throbbing tooth in your mouth, but it Is actually a good idea to floss the area and give it enough attention to make sure there is no food in there bothering the irritating tooth.
Don’t shy away from over-the-counter pain killers
Either aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen will be your best friend. They are usually pretty effective at killing the pain, although ibuprofen may be the best choice. It relieves inflammation that may result from the toothache if the pulp has died and an infection or abscess occurred. These medications will not cure the problem of course, but they can help relieve the pain in the event that you cannot go immediately to the dentist.
Apply antiseptics directly to the tooth.
According to the Mayo Clinic you should apply an antiseptic containing benzocaine directly to the tooth and gum to relieve pain, being careful to never use more than the recommended dose. Using too much can make it hard to eat or swallow because of the numbing agent and truly excessive amounts can be dangerous. You can also use clove oil, eugenol, for the same purpose. If you choose the clove oil, lightly soak a cotton ball with the oil and place it on the tooth. Although this is just a temporary relief, it can reduce swelling and pain similar to the way aspirin does.
Avoid foods that hurt your teeth
Foods that are normally bad for your teeth and gums are even worse during a toothache. Unfortunately this mean skipping popcorn and candy if going to the movies was a part of your travel plans. It is also best to avoid food and drinks that are either very hot or very cold as these will irritate the tooth causing you more pain. Perhaps instead of hot coffee in the morning you can try an espresso shot so you still have the caffeine you find in coffee, but without the heat or the sugar you might find in soda or energy drinks.
Without question, a throbbing toothache will ruin a good vacation for you, so it is best to see your dentist before heading off on your trip. It is especially important to schedule an appointment before heading to a developing country because you will likely not get the care you’re accustomed to stateside, and prices may vary to the extremes.
Disaster can occur even if you plan ahead and see a dentist before leaving. If the pain becomes too severe or you’re traveling for a long time, look into seeing a dentist in the area. In the event of an emergency it is a good idea to make sure your insurance coverage has provided for emergency care while traveling. For example Delta Dental Insurance provides coverage in and out of the U.S. for traveling dental emergencies. You want to be wise when selecting a dentist who isn’t your normal dental care service provider. Pick up on things like whether or not the dentist wears gloves in the office, how many dentists are in the office (several or just one), and the office location in the city you’re visiting.
Dr. Allen Jahangiri is a Katy dentist and founder of Noble Smile family and cosmetic dentistry. He has mastered a number of techniques and procedures practiced only by the best, and has an extensive knowledge and experience in the dentistry field.