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Tips for visiting the dentist while abroad

tips for visiting the dentist while abroad
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Going to the dentist is rarely (can we say never?) an enjoyable experience. But when you are at home, you at least know what to expect. Finding a dentist abroad and having your teeth worked on, even if it’s just for a simple cleaning, can be daunting. In this post, we offer a few tips to make the experience as painless as possible.

Be proactive

Make sure you take care of your teeth before you set off on your trip. Get a teeth cleaning and follow the recommended daily routines so that your teeth will be in tip top shape upon your departure. X-rays are also helpful – getting them will give you a sense of your dental health, which is information you can use later on when you are with a dentist in a foreign land. Finally, make sure that you continue your dental habits while on the road. A vacation does not mean a vacation from basic routines of health and hygiene.

Finding that dentist

Ok, so you’re abroad somewhere and you need a dentist. Maybe you’ve been on the road for a long time and you just want a simple cleaning. Or – and this is obviously a much worse scenario – you have a dental emergency. You don’t want to end up like Steph and Mike on their trip to a dentist in Italy, so keep these tips in mind:

  • Check online message boards and review sites. Yelp is now an international site and you may able to find listed dentists with testimony from clients. If not, you can always search on google for the name of your city + “forum” and then ask expats who live in the city for a good dentist.
  • If you strike out with the online search for reviewed dentists, you can get in touch with your embassy and see if they have any recommendations.
  • You can join the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers, which provides advice on a whole range of topics, including advice on what to do if you have a dental emergency.
  • Ask your insurance. Your travel insurance company may be able to point you in the direction of a quality dentist.

We do not recommend walking into the first dentist office that you see on the street that advertises emergency dental care. It may not end well.

Make sure the dentist knows what they’re doing

Is it possible to know whether the dentist knows what they’re doing? Yes, to an extent. If the office and/or examination room is unclean or disorganized you might want to reconsider. Ditto if you see any poor hygienic practices among staff. If the dentist tells you have 9 cavities that need to be filled, when you just had an examination and x-rays done before you left and they didn’t indicate anything, then he’s probably looking to make some money off you while unnecessarily putting holes in your teeth. You can get up and leave. You didn’t sign any legal document with this person and you’re not obligated to go through with poor, possibly dangerous, dental work.

Make sure it’s an emergency

If you are going to the dentist because of a dental emergency, make sure it’s actually, you know, an emergency. If you’re having a toothache, for example, rinse your mouth out with warm water, lightly floss, and take an anti-inflammatory painkiller like ibuprofen. You may have something caught between your teeth or you may just have a sensitive tooth. You can use this time to look up a dentist in the event that you need to go to one – don’t run out the door just yet. Of course, if the pain is unbearable or the problem is one that has persisted, you need to go see a dentist as soon as possible.

Photo credit: flickr user pfaff

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{ 1 comment… add one }

  • Cathy Sweeney May 12, 2013, 1:11 pm

    Good advice, as always. In the past few years, I’ve had 3 crowns come off — each while I was traveling! But, as you said, make sure it’s an emergency. Although I wasn’t happy about it, there was no big problem waiting to get home to get them taken care. I haven’t read about Steph and Mike’s Italian dentist experience, so going to read that now.

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