With the summer holidays fast approaching, many of us will be thinking about treating ourselves to a well-deserved luxury break. But whether it's California or Cleethorpes, Corfu or Cornwall, there's nothing worse than having a relaxing getaway interrupted by a sudden bout of illness. It is important that we know the potential risks to our dental health during this time so that something as easily preventative as a toothache doesn't ruin our holiday celebrations.
So, here are a few tips to get us through the holidays...
1. The dental check-up
First things first, before you set off on your summer holiday, make sure you take a flying trip to your dentist. Although a visit to the dentist may not be at the forefront of your mind when preparing to go on holiday, it should be a part of everyone's pre-holiday preparations, either as a precaution or to eliminate potential long-term damage to your dental health. But if you really can't do it before - do it immediately after. A scale and polish might be a good thing after giving your teeth a hard time.
2. Don't forget your toothbrush
This should go without saying but during the packing process, which can get especially manic, it's surprising what can get left behind - even something as valuable in your daily routine as your toothbrush! It's also a good idea to take a spare toothbrush, just in case you have a mishap with your regular one. Before a holiday is also the perfect time to buy a new toothbrush and pop it in your toilet bag. You could also take this time to try something new to give your teeth some extra TLC - interdental brushes for example.
3. Water is the drink of choice
As mentioned in my blog last week, the importance of water during a hot summer holiday is vital for our overall health but it also provides a vital role for our oral health too. We should avoid regularly consumption of drinks with high sugar and acidic content such as sports drinks or fruit juices which increase the chance of dental decay and enamel erosion. A word of caution on drinking tap water abroad though, to reduce the risk of picking up a tummy bug, bottled water is probably the better option.
4. Limit your sugary foods
Our summer holidays are usually the time where we eat more excessively than usually, which more often than not, makes for a high-in-sugar diet. During the holidays we are more likely to "graze" but we must remember to keep this to a minimum. It is better for our teeth and general health to stick to three meals a-day instead of having seven to ten of these "snack-attacks", which can cause dental decay and erosion, the loss of tooth enamel, which if worn away the dentine underneath is exposed and your teeth can look discoloured and become sensitive.
5. Protect your lips
While basking in the sun, many of us will sensibly apply suntan lotion to protect ourselves against the sun's rays, in a bid to help prevent such diseases as skin cancer but what many people fail to realise is the importance of protecting our lips. With the skin on our lips being thin and particularly vulnerable due to the lack of melanin, shielding our lips from the sun on holiday is essential as prolonged exposure could lead to forms of oral cancer.
6. Pack your dental first aid kit
This is a crucial piece of equipment to take on holiday. Often small and inexpensive, there are many dental first aid kits in the market and the majority of them contain everything you would need in a dental emergency. No matter how careful we are, accidents do happen so make sure you are prepared for any eventuality.
7. Regulate your alcohol consumption
It's easy to get carried away, but there a certain holiday luxuries that you should be particularly careful of - and one of these is alcohol. Regular consumption of sweet cocktails and fizzy alcoholic drinks can result in tooth decay...not exactly the holiday souvenir you were hoping for. And with alcohol being a leading cause of oral cancer we must make sure that we drink responsibly.
8. Take your spare dentures
This may come as a surprise but many sets of dentures are lost by their owners on holiday so taking a spare pair is always a good idea. Most dentures on holiday are lost through a being sick, following a bout of seasickness or food poisoning for example, with the owner not realising that their dentures have slipped out, more often than not either overboard, or down the toilet.
9. Beware of sporting injuries
Briefly touch on in a past blog post, oral sporting injuries are a common occurrence, and especially prevalent during the holiday period. Lost or cracked teeth when diving into swimming pools is a common one, as is the impact of a ball or bat to the mouth. Accidents happen and unfortunately there's not much you can to do prevent them but simply being aware of the potential dangers will perhaps make you think twice when taking part in activities.
10. Know the support available
... And finally. You may be far away from your regular dentist but there is still professional support available to you in an emergency. For European holidays you will have your European Health Card with an emergency support number - don't be scared to call it - they are there to help! Your Holiday Rep will also have contact details for nearby dentists while purchasing travel and holiday insurance could also save you an expensive bill for treatment. If you decide to stay in the UK, the Dental Helpline (0845 063 1188) is available to answer any questions you might have about your oral health.