What do you do if you wake up with a toothache while hiking in Patagonia? Or your child knocks out a tooth during a family vacation in Mexico? Finding good emergency dental care abroad can be challenging. Dentists in the United States have been educated in accredited schools, taken national and state boards prior to receiving a license to practice, and are held to high standards of care which include infection control guidelines for disease prevention. You can't always count on that when travelling abroad.
Consider these helpful strategies before your trip to avoid potential problems, or ensure the best possible outcome should an emergency occur.
Schedule a checkup before your trip
Mention any dental concerns you have so Dr. Morrison can diagnose potential issues and complete treatment before you leave.
Complete any treatment
Finish treatment on any outstanding dental work before you leave. Schedule the root canal you have been putting off or address that cracked tooth you have been “living with" well ahead of time so that adjustments, if needed, can be made prior to your trip.
Gather insurance information
Take your dental and medical insurance policy numbers. Make a contact entry on your phone or write it on a piece of paper and tuck it someplace safe. You will appreciate having this information handy if you do encounter a dental emergency on vacation.
Maintain good oral hygiene
Maintain a great oral hygiene routine before you travel to keep your mouth in a healthy, non-emergency state.
Need a mouth guard?
Are you going to be engaging in any sports while away? Consider having an athletic mouth guard made to provide extra protection for your mouth and jaw. Also, vacations are not always relaxing - so if you tend to clench your jaw or grind your teeth when under stress, consider a night guard.
Consider a dental insurance policy
Consider a travel insurance policy that includes dental coverage. If you have a travel insurance or assistance policy, the company’s 24-hour hotline can refer you to qualified dental care when you’re away from home, as well as provide translation help, if needed.
Taking precautionary measures like these can help avoid some dental emergencies on vacation, but they can’t prevent them all. If you do have a dental emergency, the important thing is to act fast to preserve the tooth and alleviate discomfort. Read Dr. Morrison's blog on
for an overview of common dental emergencies and what to do right away.
Finding Emergency Dental Care While Abroad
Once you've handled the immediate concern, you'll need to find a qualified dentist who can help you. Here are some resources to check:
These dentists are members of the society who live and work in Europe but studied in the U.S. or Canada.
IAMAT is a network of doctors and medical institutions around the world that can help you find an English speaking doctor. You will need to be a member, but it could be worth it to get you in touch with a dentist or medical professional that can help you when you are traveling abroad. To learn more go to www.iamat.org.
While many sites for finding a dentist abroad are targeting those that would participate in dental tourism, they can also be handy for finding a dentist in the part of the world in which you find yourself.
Your hotel concierge or trip guide may be able to recommend a quality dentist in the area; the American Consulate or Embassy; Americans, or American military personnel living in the area.
Your Dental Appointment Abroad
Finally, here are some things to think about as you are going into your appointment:
Licensing requirements and safety regulations
Some countries will have exceptional dental care and safety regulations they follow like the U.S. does, however, there are many places you can travel to that won’t have this. Make sure you know who you are seeing and what they are going to be doing to you. Verify that the dentist has a license and can practice as a dentist. You’ll want to be sure that the dental care you get is of the highest standards and that they use the proper tools as well as standard safety measures such as new gloves for each patient and sterilizers for instruments.
Verify the cost
Avoid surprises by verifying the cost, in writing, before you start treatment. Also, make sure your quote is in US currency.
Language can be a barrier to treatment. If you do not understand what the dentist or dental staff are saying to you, and the dentist and employees do not understand what you are saying to them, this is not the place for you to have dental care performed.
Dental emergencies on vacation happen all the time. Be sure to prepare before your trip, act fast if you have a problem, and use the resources available to you to find a qualified dental professional that can treat you to facilitate the best possible outcome—for your tooth and your vacation.
Was this article helpful? Leave a comment and also forward it to someone you know who may be travelling abroad. Have a great trip!