Tags:From the press release from the N.C. Dental Society:
APEX, N.C. – Summer’s here and Americans are hitting the roads (and the skies) by the millions. But few travellers give thought to dental care while they’re away from home.
“People make elaborate travel plans, but not many consider the possibility of dental problems before they leave,” says Charlotte dentist, Dr. Deborah Aten.
“It’s a good idea, especially if you’re planning a long trip or travel out of the country, to have a thorough dental exam before leaving. It’s important to go ahead and correct any problems before leaving,” she said.
But if you are traveling in the U.S. and the worst happens, don’t worry. The American Dental Association (ADA) maintains an online “find a dentist” service that can help travelers get the care they need almost anywhere in the U.S. by visiting www.ada.org/ada/findadentist// to connect with an ADA member dentist who can help.
Traveling outside the U.S. poses a different set of problems according to Dr. Aten. “Dental care standards around the world can vary widely from what we may be used to here at home,” she says.
Patient safety when receiving dental care in a foreign country is the number one issue. “U.S. dentists are held to very high standards when it comes to equipment, drugs, sterilization, the use of X-ray equipment, and infection control. Other countries may be held to different standards,” says Dr. Aten.
Of particular concern in foreign countries is the possibility of the spread of hepatitis, AIDS, and other blood-borne illnesses, as well as a lack of regulations that limit patient exposure to excessive radiation from X-rays. “The medications and dental instruments American dentists use are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ensure safety. This layer of protection may not exist in some countries.”
According to Dr. Aten, there are several steps travellers can take before they leave to help ensure a healthy trip free of dental emergencies:
• In addition to a dental check-up, schedule your appointment to allow enough time to complete necessary follow-up dental work.
• Attend to decayed teeth, broken fillings and other dental problems.
• Have your teeth cleaned, especially if you have a history of periodontal (gum) disease.
• Complete root canal treatment to avoid possible infections and pain due to pressure changes during air travel. If the work cannot be completed, your dentist can insert a temporary paste filling to reduce the risk of problems.
• Check your dental insurance policy to see if overseas care is covered, along with follow-up care when you return home.
• Consider hepatitis B vaccination if you’re travelling to areas where many people might be infected (this requires three shots over a 6-month period, so plan ahead.) The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers useful information for foreign travellers at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/
How to find a dentist in a foreign country:
• If you stay in a hotel, the concierge or hotel management may be able to recommend a local dentist. Or, check with the U.S. embassy, military personnel or American expatriates living in the area.
• If you do not know the local language, seek out a dentist who speaks English so you can communicate effectively.
Dr. Aten also suggests several other precautions, especially relating to infection control:
• Dentists and staff should wear a new pair of rubber or vinyl gloves for each patient, as well as protective eyewear.
• Instruments should be properly sterilized or disposed of after use. (No reusable needles)
• Dentists and staff should always wash their hands before donning gloves as well as immediately after removing them.
• Water that is unsafe to drink is unfit for dental treatment, especially surgery. Bottled sterile water is preferred and boiled water is considered acceptable.
• Do not buy medications “over the counter” unless you’re familiar with the product.
“Depending on location, some of these measures may be difficult or awkward to insist on,” says Dr. Aten. “But, it’s good to have them in mind and at least inquire about them when being treated in a foreign country.”
“Chances are that not all possible precautions will be taken, but when a patient’s health and well-being are at stake, being informed and prepared are the best options.”
For additional information on dental care while travelling abroad visit the Organization for Safety and Asepsis (OSAP) Web site at http://www.osap.org/. The site features a checklist for obtaining safe dental care while travelling.
Or, visit the N.C. Dental Society (NCDS) website www.ncdental.org for links to other informative sites.
The NCDS represents 3,600 dentists throughout North Carolina. The NCDS encourages improvement of the oral health of the public, promotes the art and science of dentistry, sustains high standards of professional competence and practice, and represents the interests of the members of the dental profession and the public which it serves.