Whether you’re getting out of town for a quick weekend trip or planning an extended visit home for the holidays, your travel preparation will look a little different if you’re wearing braces. While you eagerly anticipate a break from work or school, just remember that you don’t get to take a vacation from your braces. You will need to be just a little more mindful of your teeth during your travels this year if this is your first season wearing braces. And even if you’re a seasoned pro, planning ahead for how you will incorporate your routine into your travels will help avoid problems that could affect your relaxation. Fortunately, with some basic preparation, your orthodontic treatment will not disrupt your travels.
Schedule A Check-Up Before Leaving
Pencil your orthodontist onto your pre-vacation checklist. An appointment is probably not needed if you have one scheduled within a week or two of your departure. However, if it’s been longer than a couple weeks since you’ve checked in with your orthodontist, then it’s advisable to stop in for an assessment. It’s always a good idea to confirm that your treatment is proceeding as planned before spending time without physical access to the office.
If you are unsure about the necessity of a pre-vacation checkup, you can call your orthodontist’s office and ask. The answer will likely depend on how you were doing at your last appointment, the level of interventions currently being done, how you are feeling and how long you will be away.
Putting off the appointment can be tempting when faced with a long list of other tasks involved in preparing for a vacation or the holidays. However, any orthodontist will tell you that it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your orthodontic care, and that it’s best to address any small issues before they become troublesome and potentially interfere with your plans or progress.
At your pre-vacation appointment, your orthodontist will make necessary changes in equipment and ensure that your treatment proceeds as planned. If you wear traditional braces, she will check your brackets and wires to make sure they are firmly in place. Once you get the green light on your orthodontic care, you can proceed to have fun without worrying about your braces.
Have A Travel Plan
Just as you do for school or work, you need a basic travel kit that supplies all your orthodontic needs on the go. It should include:
- A travel-size toothbrush to carry with you throughout the day (in addition to your regular toothbrush!)
- Dental floss
- Orthodontic wax to help with any discomfort from protruding wires
- Over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- An appliance for dealing with loose wires, such as tweezers
- Mini water bottle for rinsing your mouth
- Small mirror to examine any possible dental issue and check for food in your teeth
- Extra rubber bands
Make sure the kit is convenient to carry in your pocket, purse or backpack. It won’t do any good sitting back in the hotel room when food gets lodged in your braces or teeth.
Before you head to your destination, use the American Association of Orthodontists locator to identify orthodontists in close proximity to your destination. Find the nearest few and write down the name of each practice, office phone number, address and business hours. Although emergencies with braces are rare, they do happen, and knowing where to go in an urgent situation can keep your dream vacation from becoming a nightmare. Preparing more than one number to call if issues arise will give you a better chance of finding an orthodontist who can see you.
Keep Up The Care Routine
Vacation is a time to relax physically and mentally, but it’s not a time to relax on your dental hygiene regimen. Brush and floss regularly and thoroughly, even when it’s tempting to take a break from the routine. Rinse with mouthwash or water after every meal, and follow any other instructions your orthodontist has given you. Skimping on the oral routine for a just few days might seem harmless, but actually could negatively impact the health of your teeth in the long run.
You already have a list of foods to avoid, and your orthodontist has probably reviewed it with you several times. So you know to steer clear of crunchy, hard, chewy or sticky foods that can damage your braces. Being away from home does not magically strengthen your brackets and wires–they will still break if you aren’t mindful of the food you eat.
Before your trip, make a list of green light and red light foods specific to the occasion so that you don’t have to think too much about what you can and can’t eat when the spread is in front of you. If you are preparing or contributing food, make sure you have options that are braces friendly. You can still indulge in plenty of delicious foods and desserts.
If you are receiving orthodontic treatment with removable aligners, it is extremely important that you follow all instructions for how to wear and care for them. Although aligners look similar to clear, plastic retainers, their function is quite different. Whereas retainers prevent movement, aligners are actively moving your teeth. So while you might know someone who has neglected his retainer for a day or two and ended up just fine, aligners are a totally different story. Even one day of not wearing your aligners can affect your treatment by slowing, and even partially reversing, your progress. Most likely you’ve been instructed to wear your aligners at least 22 hours a day.
Orthodontic Emergencies While Traveling
It’s always best to prevent an avoidable emergency with braces from happening in the first place. If your vacation will include time at a basketball or tennis court or any other physical activity where it is possible that your mouth could take a hit, wearing a mouthguard is an important recommendation to follow. It’s true that most likely nothing will happen. But in the event that something does, you will be thankful when your braces are undamaged and you still have all your teeth.
However, sometimes you can take all the right precautions and an accident still happens. If you sustain a blow to the mouth, the damage could require urgent care. Depending on the nature of the accident, you might need to immediately visit your local emergency room or an emergency dentist.
Head straight to the ER if you are cut and bleeding heavily from the mouth, as you may need stitches. Likewise if you are bleeding from the head or have any symptoms of a concussion. Left untreated, a concussion can be a serious medical condition.
A trip to the emergency dentist is required if you have:
- Chipped a tooth
- Cracked a tooth
- Lost a tooth
- Sustained a gum injury
These problems can be potentially serious and cannot be ignored, but they are best addressed immediately by a dentist rather than an ER doctor. Visit an emergency dentist even if you are not feeling much pain. The dentist will need to check to see if you’ve damaged the root of your tooth.
In the event of a non-emergency, such as irritation or a broken bracket or wire, it is probably OK to wait until you return to seek treatment. But there are some actions you can take in the meantime to make you more comfortable. If your wires or brackets are irritating your lips or cheeks, rinse with warm salt water and use orthodontic wax to cover them. If a wire is sticking out, use an appliance like a spoon, toothbrush or even a pencil to gently push the wire under your braces and out of the way. If you’re left with a long piece of wire hanging out after a bracket breaks, you can carefully cut it with nail clippers.
If a bracket breaks on one of the front or middle teeth, dry the tooth and place a small piece of orthodontic wax on it so it doesn’t irritate you. If the broken bracket is on a back tooth, you can gently remove it from the wire.
Traveling for the first time after having braces installed can be an intimidating thought. However, just a little preparation and some forethought can prevent orthodontic emergencies from ruining your rest and relaxation.