What to Do When You Have a Dental Emergency While Traveling Abroad

Updated on August 11, 2019
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Dr. Gary Salwin leads the Glendale Dental Group, Arizona. He and his team treat dental emergencies and perform other dental services.

By default, a dental emergency always seems to come at the most inopportune time. However, no time is more inconvenient than when you’re traveling abroad. You are, after all, a stranger on vacation or on a mission in a foreign country. Your trusted emergency dentist is back home—miles and miles away. So what do you do if and when a dental emergency strikes while you’re in a faraway land?

What to do when you have a dental emergency while traveling abroad.
What to do when you have a dental emergency while traveling abroad. | Source

Be Prepared

Before you even leave your country, make sure that you’re prepared for any eventualities, including a dental emergency.

For starters, go online and start researching about good emergency dentists who are practicing in the cities or towns where you’ll be spending your vacation. Take note of their emergency phone numbers and of course, the exact address of their practices. Read up on the services they provide, and seek reviews and testimonies about them as well. That way, you will have a place to rush off to in case you suffer a dental emergency.

Having a dental checkup before leaving is also another way of being prepared for an international trip, especially if you’re traveling to developing countries with little to no access to proper dental care. Get your teeth cleaned, and if you have dental treatments that need to be done like root canals, get it done long before the trip.

You should also pack over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen in case you suffer a toothache or any other dental emergency. If you’re planning to do some skiing, surfing, or other athletic stuff during your vacation, a mouthguard will come in handy, as it’s effective at cushioning a blow to the face, lowering the risk of teeth getting broken or knocked out.

If you have a dental insurance plan, check the terms so you can see how they apply when you’re traveling abroad. To be doubly sure, consider getting travel dental insurance.

What to Do When There's an Actual Dental Emergency

When a dental emergency does happen while traveling abroad, here some things you need to do depending on the situation.


Rinse your mouth with warm water to keep it clean. From your oral hygiene kit, get your dental floss to make sure your teeth don’t have food or any other kind of debris caught between them. Take some of that pain medication for relief. If the toothache persists, then it’s time to take out your research and contact a dentist practicing in the area.

Broken/Cracked Tooth

As with a toothache, rinse out your mouth to clean it, then apply a cold compress to control the inflammation and swelling that will likely follow. Take your OTC pain medication in case of pain, then call an emergency dentist.

Knocked-Out Tooth

When a tooth gets knocked out during any of your activities abroad, the first thing you need to do is find and secure that tooth. Hold it by the crown, never by the root. Rinse it in cool water, and remember not to scrub it in any way. If you can find milk where you’re staying, then get a cup of it and put the tooth in it. Contact the emergency dentist you have researched about and get there as soon as you can because the tooth should be re-implanted within one hour for a higher rate of success.

Bleeding From the Mouth

When someone suffers a dental emergency like the ones mentioned above, bleeding is highly likely. The gums, tongue, and other soft tissues inside the mouth are susceptible to getting cut and bleeding during an emergency. There will also be a certain amount of pain. Applying a cold compress to the outside of the mouth can help control the bleeding. For pain relief, painkillers like ibuprofen are more advisable than aspirin, which is a blood thinner that could make the bleeding worse.

Whether you’re going abroad on vacation or a mission, you should never be remiss in preparing for a dental emergency. After all, it can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere, regardless of the kind or level of activity you will be involved in once you get there. So get ready for any eventuality so you can effectively deal with any dental emergency even when you’re in another country.

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

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