Your flight is booked. Your carry-on is packed. You’re ready for a change of scenery and things like “gum disease” might not be the first thing on your mind. But, whether you’re off on business or on holiday, sometimes travel can make your oral hygiene more likely to fall to the wayside.

Here’s how your oral health can take a hit while you’re travelling, as well as some tips for keeping your smile healthy – even when you’re off on an adventure!

 

1. Disrupted hygiene routines 

When you're at home, you likely have a set schedule. Daily routines make it easier to brush and floss your teeth, helping keep issues like tooth decay and gum disease at bay.

Travelling means you’re more likely to go through time zone changes, which can make it tougher to know exactly when you last cleaned your teeth. Considering the long distance between Australia and many international destinations, you may require a stopover or two to reach where you're going. During all this travel time, you might start to develop that “fuzzy tooth sensation.” 

What to do

Always remember to pack a toothbrush, toothpaste and floss in your carry-on. Then, either set alarms every 10 hours or so as a reminder, or simply brush your teeth 20 minutes after each meal. If you do forget your toothbrush or floss, you can usually find what you need in airport shops or at your hotel’s front desk.

2. Hasty hygiene

When you finally do manage a break to brush your teeth, it's often in unfamiliar environments like cramped plane bathrooms. Considering these areas are high-use and can have people waiting on the other side of the door, you may end up feeling a little rushed.

What to do

Remember that a good brushing takes two minutes and that flossing should be part of the routine. Set yourself a timer and do the job justice - then be sure to thank the next person waiting in line as you leave!

3. Dietary choices

If you’re going away on holiday, it’s usually time for celebration, fun and maybe even a bit of indulgence.

For many of us, that means more dinners out at restaurants, as well as desserts, snacks and alcohol. While it’s nice to have a well-deserved treat, extra sugar and acidic ingredients can contribute to tooth decay and gum disease.

Even if you’re not on holiday, travelling for work tends to involve a lot more room service and catered meals than you’d usually eat.

What to do

You don’t have to be strict all the time, but consider occasionally choosing a healthier snack like almonds or fruit. If you do indulge, try rinsing your mouth with water immediately after you finish.

If you’re enjoying a sugary or acidic beverage, sip it through a straw to help minimise contact between the beverage and your teeth.

4. Dehydration

Dehydration is not at all uncommon during long flights. The recycled air and tiny water bottles can all contribute to you feeling wrung out and dehydrated by the time you land.

Water and your natural saliva help wash away food particles. This means a dry mouth can be a fantastic breeding ground for bacteria.

What to do

Grab a massive water bottle and keep it full before you board your flight. You can also bring a pack of sugar-free chewing gum to help stimulate the production of saliva.

Try to avoid drinking alcohol right before or during your flight - it can dehydrate you even more. 

5. Dental emergencies

Dental emergencies like knocked-out teeth and toothaches are inconvenient even when your usual dentist is nearby. A dental emergency in an unfamiliar place can result in even more questions, like where to go or what your insurance covers.

Your travel destination will dictate a lot of your dental options, especially if you’re somewhere remote or in a location that has different clinical standards than those in Australia.

What to do

Here, your best protection is prevention. Try to maintain regular dental check-ups – your dentist may be able to catch issues that could make an emergency more likely. If you plan to participate in any sports or activities that have a high risk of impact, consider asking your dentist about a custom-fitted mouthguard.

You can also ask your dentist if they have any advice on dental clinics or professionals near your travel destination.

Click here for more tips on what to do if you have a dental emergency.