7 travel tips for good oral health
Guilt of ignoring your teeth while on vacation? Banish the bad habit with these travel tricks
You can't take a vacation from oral hygiene
It can be hard to give your oral care the attention it deserves when you're travelling for business or pleasure. You're away from home, and you're out of your routine. But the health of your mouth shouldn't be compromised. "You can't take a vacation from oral hygiene," says Dr. Robert MacGregor, a dentist in Kentville, Nova Scotia. Here are seven suggestions for tooth care while you travel.
1. Pack properly
The travel container you keep your toothbrush in should be large enough to provide air circulation. Don't use a case that holds your brush tightly, and make sure that the container has holes for drainage and ventilation. Before and after your trip, be sure to clean your case! An American Academy of Periodontology survey found that a third of travellers never wash out their toothbrush cases.
2. Dry out your brush
A brush that stays wet breeds bacteria. If you can, take your toothbrush out of its travel case as soon as you reach your destination. Standing your brush upright in a cup will allow the water to drain away from the bristles. (Just make sure it's not kept where the maid could knock it into the toilet!) If you're travelling by car, you might let your brush air out on the dash. Take your toothbrush out of its travel container as soon as you get home.
3. Look for portable oral hygiene products
A collapsible toothbrush, a disposable tooth flosser or a roll of floss isn't difficult to fit into your purse or carry-on. "Floss is very compact, so you can take it with you when you travel," says Dr. MacGregor.
4. Have a back-up plan
Depending on your destination, it might be a good idea to pack extra oral care supplies. They'll come in handy if you run out and can't buy replacements. Some hotels will stock disposable toothbrushes at the desk. Remember that in a pinch, without paste, you can still brush with water. You'll still be removing plaque from your teeth, as long as you brush properly.
5. Keep it clean
Always remember to wash your hands well before handling your toothbrush or flossing your teeth. And if the local water isn't safe to drink, that means it's not safe for oral care either. Use bottled or boiled water instead.
6. Try treats for your teeth
Does travelling make it tricky to brush your teeth right after a meal? Pack some tooth treats to help you keep your mouth clean. Sugarless gum sweetened with xylitol will stimulate the flow of saliva, which helps to cleanse your teeth. Bacteria and bits of food will also stick to the gum instead of to your mouth. Sucking sugarless candies with green tea extract, or drinking green tea, can protect your teeth. Research at Pace University suggests green tea may help to destroy the bacteria that cause cavities.
7. Watch what you're eating
When we go on vacation, we often change our eating habits. We tend to indulge ourselves a lot more, says Dr. MacGregor. "I guess we can't begrudge somebody some snacks and good times. But the frequency of sugar exposure is very important," he says. Try to limit the number of times you treat yourself to sweets in a day. Each exposure will make a difference to the health of your teeth.