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Dental Health Insurance While Traveling: How to Prepare for the Unexpected

  • A number of accidents can happen while traveling, and some—like severe pain or tooth loss—need immediate care

  • Find out ahead of time if your dental plan covers emergencies while traveling, and if it doesn't, look into comprehensive travel coverage or find out what your credit card companies cover

  • You can find a dentist while traveling by getting referrals from your local dentist, your hotel, review sites or professional sites such as IAMAT, the American Dental Society of Europe or the Board Certified Asia Dental Association

Posted by July 20, 2018

If dealing with dental health insurance while traveling seems confusing, don’t worry. It’s actually less complicated than you might think!

Sure, a number of accidents can happen when you or your colleagues are traveling that could require emergency dental care. But in these situations, a little advanced research goes a long way.

A dental accident isn’t the end of the world, even if you might be on the other side of the world. Here’s what you and your team members need to know in order to prepare for unexpected oral issues while traveling.

What Kind of Dental Accidents Might Happen While Traveling?

Quite a few things can go wrong with your teeth while you’re away from home and far from your preferred dentist. Tooth pain and cavities can assert themselves at any time. You’ll likely be eating foods that are different from what you’re used to, so this could cause new allergic reactions or oral sensitivities. You could also fall and chip a tooth while exploring the area. It’s a good idea to see your dentist for a routine checkup before you leave, just in case there’s an issue that can be addressed ahead of your departure.

Should You Be Treated Right Away or Can You Wait?

Whether you wait or get treated right away really depends on the situation. In some circumstances—such as with severe tooth pain or losing a tooth—you may need to be looked at immediately. A lost tooth, for example, has the best chance of recovery if it’s returned to the socket within 30 minutes of being knocked out.

At other times, such as with a slight tooth chip or the beginnings of cavity pain, you may be able to wait. For example, sugarless gum can sometimes be a substitute for a lost filling, and over-the-counter dental cement can be used to temporarily replace a lost crown.

It’s best to call your dentist (even if you’re overseas) and ask about temporary remedies that might help you wait for treatment. Your dentist will be able to advise you on whether a situation is an emergency.

Just remember: Air travel can make some dental issues worse. An untreated tooth might become excruciating while you’re flying. Your dentist might prescribe mild painkillers to help.

Bring the Essentials—And a Little Extra—When Traveling

A little preparation can go a long way. If you want to keep your options open, then bring a few things with you that might help you wait for treatment (as long as it’s not an emergency). Of course, you’ll want to bring the basics like mouthwash, toothpaste and floss. But bring some things for pain, too. Consider topical medications for canker sores and sore gums, as well as pain-relieving medicine and special toothpaste if you’ve ever had tooth sensitivity. You never know when that pain can crop back up.

If you wear a night guard for grinding, don’t leave it at home. You don’t want to be dealing with a chipped tooth while you’re overseas. You might even want a mouthguard if you’re doing a high-impact recreational activities.

Who Covers Foreign Emergencies?

Some dental insurance providers cover problems while traveling—but not all of them. You’ll want to find out if your company’s insurance covers dental injuries that need treatment while traveling. If it doesn’t, you might want to buy comprehensive travel insurance that covers dental and medical emergencies, along with other unforeseen circumstances. In addition, some credit card companies offer travel insurance that covers dental emergencies.

How to Choose a Provider in a Foreign Country

If you need immediate treatment while abroad on vacation, it’s important to take care when choosing a dentist. You’ll want to see someone who uses proper infection controls and radiation safety. You can always ask your dentist for a recommendation, and you can also ask your hotel for recommendations or read reviews on sites like TripAdvisor.

Another option is to visit a site set up just for these types of referrals—such as the American Dental Society of Europe, IAMAT (for finding English-speaking doctors all over the world) or the Board Certified Asia Dental Association. Additionally, you can ask your embassy for referrals.

How to Help Your Employees Prepare

You want your team members to always be prepared and feel protected, no matter where they are. Talk to your health care agent about what your company’s dental plan covers for traveling abroad. Then send out a memo to your staff explaining all their options. It doesn’t have to be too complicated—just let them know in a succinct letter what types of injuries are covered, where to get referrals and what they need to bring to use their coverage.

It’s also a good idea to have your health care agent meet one-on-one with anyone who has more specific questions. Dental health insurance while traveling isn’t that complicated, you just need to do your research before traveling. Bon voyage!

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