Every year, millions of Americans travel to be with family and friends during the holidays. With Chanukah and Christmas occurring during the same week this year, there may be more families on the road at the same time than ever, in recent years. If long car trips or air travel are a part of your plans this month, don’t let dental health take a back seat.
Read Dr. Kimmy’s Road Trip FAQs for information that will help you make good choices for your family’s dental health when holiday travel keeps you from your normal routines. You’ll have the knowledge to keep your family’s teeth and gums healthy, even when your mind is on the road and celebrating the season.
Do you need a pediatric dentist for the coming year? Call Dr. Kimmy’s Manhasset, New York dental office at 516-365-4 KID to schedule a check-up in January of 2017.
What’s the best way to clean your teeth on the road?
Obviously the best way to brush your teeth on the road is the same way you brush them at home. If you stop to use the toilet, you can probably find time to brush, with a little pre-planning. Pack a small bag with travel toothbrushes, mini-toothpaste tubes, and flossing picks and keep it in the cabin of your vehicle (or your carry-on bag) and you’ll always be ready for impromptu oral hygiene.
If you are stopping for a meal, for example, try to brush before you get back on the road. You probably encourage mandatory visits to the bathroom before you pile back into the car(!), so bring your travel dental kit so children can brush their teeth after they eat. Brushing while waiting to use the restaurant bathroom will add no extra time, and you’ll be one step ahead of tooth decay.
How can we brush our teeth when we’re stuck in a car (or airplane seat)?
When your children start to get sleepy, try having them brush while sitting in their seat. Put a tiny dab of toothpaste on each brush and let them spit into a small cup or a few tissues. If that’s too messy for you, dry brushing is better than no brushing at all—just remind your children (and yourself) not to brush too hard. Without toothpaste, we sometimes overcompensate by brushing too vigorously and irritate our gums.
Is there any way to clean my teeth without a toothbrush?
Even if you plan ahead, you still may find yourself without your toothbrush when your teeth start to feel a bit fuzzy. A soft, clean cloth, such as a damp washcloth, can clean teeth very well in a pinch.
Even chewing sugarless gum after a meal is better than nothing, as it stimulates the production of saliva, which is our body’s own best defense against mouth bacteria. On that note, always make sure your children are well-hydrated. It’s easy to get dehydrated when we travel (especially if we are trying to minimize pit-stops), and plenty of water will make sure they are producing enough saliva to protect those little teeth.
How bad is it, really, to fall asleep without brushing your teeth?
It’s easy for us to lose our routines when we travel. When we’re not at home, our eating and sleeping habits change, and we may have so much fun we forget to make sure our little ones brush their teeth before they fall asleep at the hotel or on grandma’s couch. You may gaze at your resting angel and wonder whether you should wake her to brush her teeth, or just let her sleep?
Forgetting to brush for one night is definitely not advisable—but as long as it’s just one night, your child will likely recover from the lapse. Make sure your child brushes normally in the morning before eating breakfast. (Eating before you brush can push bacteria deeper into your teeth and gums.)
“Forget” to brush for more than one day, however, and you are tempting fate. You probably know that plaque is that sticky, gummy stuff that you find on your teeth after a long day, but did you know that plaque can calcify and become tartar in just 48 hours? In only two days, that gunk becomes hard and insoluble, and can only be removed with a professional dental cleaning. Since bacteria love to feed on dental plaque, demineralization of your enamel and tooth decay soon follow if plaque and tartar are not removed.
What are the best snacks for avoiding plaque?
It’s not hard to find a wide range of snacks today, even at gas stations. Avoid sugar and foods made from processed white flour and potatoes, and you’ll make great choices.
Try to avoid…
- too much fruit juice
- sugary snacks (candy, cakes, donuts)
- sticky fruit snacks
- potato chips
- crackers and pretzels
Try to find…
- fresh fruits and vegetables
- fruit cups packed in juice (rather than syrup)
- nuts and seeds
- individual portions of cheese (string cheese, Babybel)
- beef jerky and other meat snacks
If you do wind up feeding your children snacks from the “avoid” list, be sure to have them drink water (and swish) when they have finished. This can help reduce the amount of food residue that sticks to their teeth and leads to plaque.
Plan and Improvise
It’s not hard to make better choices when we’re on the road. With a little bit of planning and improvisation, you can keep your road trip from becoming a free-for-all for mouth bacteria and enjoy your holiday with bright smiles and healthy, happy mouths.
If you need a pediatric dentist for the coming year, call Dr. Kimmy’s Manhasset, New York dental office at 516-365-4 KID to schedule a dental cleaning and check-up.Leave a reply →