When you're travelling, keeping up your personal hygiene routine can be a challenge. When I trekked through the Nepal Himalayas, I went 17 days without a proper shower; it's amazing what you can do with baby wipes. I never once skipped cleaning my teeth though. So what are some of the traps you can fall into when it comes to oral hygiene on-the-go?
It's all too easy to grab snacks here and there, particularly if you're on a long drive or flight. Try to avoid snacking just to fill the time, instead only eating at meal times or if you're actually hungry. Regular doses of sugary treats will feed the plaque bacteria, allowing them to easily multiply and produce acid. If you just have to masticate something, chew some sugar-free gum, or munch on some sugar-free lollies.
Keep yourself well hydrated to avoid the bad effects of a dry mouth. A dry mouth is not only uncomfortable, but also increases your risk of decay, gum disease, and accidentally injuring your mouth. Drink plenty of water, and limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine. Aeroplanes in particular are a nightmare for contributing to dehydration, especially if you're on an airline which offers the temptation of complimentary alcohol. Don't forget, if you're in a place where the water is not safe to drink, it's also not safe to use to brush your teeth. Keep some bottled or sterilised water with you so you can rinse your mouth and toothbrush hygienically.
It's always better to avoid having a dental emergency when travelling, particularly if you're heading overseas. If you're going away, make sure your dental check-up is up to date, and see your dentist for anything you might be worried about before you go. If you're unlucky enough to have a problem while you're away, how you handle it depends on where you are. You're pretty safe having dental treatment in developed countries, as long as you've got travel insurance to cover the bill. If you're in a remote area or developing country, I suggest asking that the minimum treatment possible be done just to get you out of pain, then visiting your dentist as soon as you get home. Check with your travel insurer, credit card provider, or tour operator. They may offer a service to recommend a dentist, or to find one who speaks your preferred language.
Don't forget your toothbrush
Keep your toothbrush, toothpaste and floss with you, somewhere you can access easily. That way if your luggage goes missing, at least your teeth won't suffer. You could always clean your teeth to kill time at the airport, or floss when your travel buddy takes their turn to drive. Cleaning your teeth is also a great way to make yourself feel refreshed when the rest of your body feels like a sweaty sock, so make it one of the first things you do when you arrive at your destination.