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Your Smile On Vacation

As May comes to an end, many Americans are busy making plans for summer vacations. While these trips are great opportunities to enjoy friends, family and escape the stresses of work or school, the change of routine can disrupt established oral health regimens.

Of course, our goal is to help you avoid problems such as cavities and developing gum disease all year. Yet, the typical indulgences of sweet drinks, alcoholic beverages and starchy snacks associated with vacation time can easily create the need for treatment costs for dental repairs.

Too, when one’s schedule is different or time zone changes alter wake and sleep routines, time at the sink for brushing and flossing may take a back seat. For example, if you normally floss and brush every night at eight o’clock, a vacation routine may push the time back so you’re less likely to spend as much time doing a good job. You may be tired from an active day and decide to forego flossing. You may join family members for an evening ice-cream after brushing and assume it won’t hurt.

We’d rather your vacation not turn into dental repairs. With some proactive measures, your vacation shouldn’t interfere with your smile’s well-being. First, we suggest packing fluoridated toothpaste, toothbrush and floss in one container so your oral care items are all together upon arrival. Once you are at your destination, place these within easy reach of the bathroom sink. This will help to remind you to stick to a thorough brushing and flossing schedule.

Next, eating and drinking on vacation can make you vulnerable to decay and gum disease. Keep in mind that sweets are especially harmful in the mouth since sugar super-charges oral bacteria. Drink lots of water to keep your mouth moist, which aids saliva flow in rinsing bacteria from the mouth. Try to limit alcohol and caffeine since they tend to dry out oral tissues.

Also remember that sipping colas over a long period of time is one of the worst things you can do when it comes to your oral health. The acid level in these drinks is high, so high that it actually softens tooth enamel. Combine that with sugar or a carbohydrate snack and you may as well give oral bacteria a chisel and hammer.

Another caution is eating frequently. When we’re on vacation, sticking to our ‘three squares’ takes a turn. Hey, it’s vacation! We often find ourselves indulging in an afternoon ice-cream or sampling goodies at the fudge shop after dinner. Just remember that every time you eat or drink, an acid attack is triggered in your mouth. Although this acid is a normal part of the digestive process, it can weaken tooth enamel for a 20-30 minute period after eating or drinking. While we would never suggest you deprive yourself of these vacation indulgences, try to swish with water after. Or, chew sugarless gum, which will activate saliva flow and help to dilute the acid.

Lastly, vacations can have us involved in fun activities that SHOULD include a mouth guard. If you leave yours at home, even a volley ball game can lead to an injury that requires immediate dental attention. Avoiding tooth breaks, knocked out teeth, or chipped teeth in the first place is worth wearing a mouth guard. Most people are more committed to a custom-made mouth piece since they are more comfortable. However, if you don’t have one, you can purchase a boil-&-bite type at a nearby drug store, which will be better than no mouth guard at all.

We want you to return from your vacation with great memories AND a healthy smile! Be sure you are current on your 6-month cleaning and exam before you go, however. If you’re behind on your dental check-ups, call 219-987-5733 to get your smile vacation-ready!