Often, when on vacation, the routines we’ve developed at home—like daily oral hygiene—can fall by the wayside. While you may be on a fun, relaxing, and well-deserved getaway, you could be giving streptococcus mutans—the bacterium which causes tooth decay—the advantage it’s been waiting for.

A few simple steps will ensure good oral hygiene isn’t compromised the next time you’re away from home.

Keep Your Toothbrush Germ Free

When traveling, it’s common to put your toothbrush in a plastic travel case to keep it clean and prevent damage. The problem with most travel cases is that they are not properly ventilated, causing the bristles of your toothbrush to stay damp, creating the perfect environment for bacteria. Be sure your toothbrush has a chance to completely dry. Keep it out of the travel case as much as possible. There are also battery-operated cases available that, when closed, will shine a germicidal ultra-violet light on the bristles for a few minutes, killing 99.9% of all germs.

Get Some Bottled Water

If you’re spending a few days at a five-star resort, you can probably be certain the water will be clean and plentiful. But, if you’re camping in the desert or weekending in Rocky Point, there are no guarantees that potable water will be available. Your teeth love water, and it’s important for brushing and rinsing. To prevent being in a situation with either no water or bad water, bring your own.

Chew Gum with Xylitol

If you’re in a situation where brushing after a meal isn’t possible, chewing gum containing xylitol is a good alternative. Xylitol has been shown to create an environment which is unfriendly to cavity and plaque causing bacteria. Chewing gum with xylitol is the best way to be certain the xylitol is distributed in every part of your mouth. Plus, it’s gum, so kids love it.

Know What to Do in Emergencies

For all dental emergencies, whether at home or away, the best solution is to see your dentist immediately. If it’s going to be awhile until you’re home, here are some short-term remedies:

  • Toothache – Dissolve a teaspoon of salt into a cup of boiling water. Let the water cool until it’s about body temperature and use it to rinse your mouth for no less than 30 seconds.
  • Cracked or Broken Teeth – As with a toothache, rinse with warm salt water. Take an over-the-counter pain medication, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen which are both preferable to aspirin, and try a commercial anesthetic like Orajel or Anbesol.
  • Knocked Out Teeth – If you have the tooth, and it’s in one piece, put the tooth in a cup of milk and take it to the closest dentist. The tooth can be implanted by a dentist within the first hour or two. If you wait much longer than that, the tooth’s survivability diminishes rapidly and is no longer viable for implantation.

Enjoy your next getaway, but don’t give your oral hygiene any time off. As the old saying goes, “Be true to your teeth or they’ll be false to you.”