Losing a tooth on holiday doesn’t have to be a disaster
Did you know dentists can perform transplants if swift action is taken?
What should you do if you break or lose a tooth on vacation?
Go immediately to the dentist but don’t forget to take the lost fragment or tooth. Those pieces reimplanted during the 30 minutes after the incident have an 80 per cent recovery success rate.
Something happens to the human being when he or she becomes a tourist. Something that sometimes becomes embarrassing and hopeless, especially if the same language is not spoken in the visited country. It is a sudden awkwardness that seems to dominate our countenance, actions and discourse. David Foster Wallace described it hilariously throughout his essay “Something supposedly fun that I will never do again”, a book in which he recounts his experience during a week on a luxury cruise: I have heard buoyant Americans ask at the counter Passenger Service if you have to get wet to dive, if the shot at the plate takes place outdoors, if the crew sleeps on board and at what time is the Midnight Buffet.
As a guideline, physical accidents also become a common feature of the tourist experience. The slip in the pool, the fracture of the tooth after biting a food of unknown texture, the stumbling block due to distraction (basically, looking at the mobile while walking) or the fall caused by the practice of some water sport. All these situations can lead to bruises that require medical attention. And on vacation, it is not pleasant to face an unknown health system.
If it is a dental contusion, it is considered an emergency. And if the tooth has fractured, broken or extracted, time is money. What should be done in these cases?
In the Artedental clinic, whose location is in one of the main tourist centres of Tenerife – Puerto de la Cruz – they are accustomed to receiving foreign patients suffering from this type of accident. “Attention in the same language is essential,” explains the staff, “but it would also be helpful if patients had a basic first aid knowledge of what to do in the minutes after tooth loss or breakage, essential to be able to reimplant the piece ”. It should be known that, to reimplant a tooth, it cannot be temporary or milk.
The first and most important thing is to keep calm. Nerves and pain, if they exist, can lead to counter-productive behaviours and effects.
Second, look for the missing tooth or fragment, handling it carefully to avoid any further damage. This involves taking it by the crown (visible part) and avoiding touching the root, soaking it for a few seconds in a bowl with warm water if it has become dirty, and never rubbing it or adding an external alcohol-like sub-stance to clean it.
After soaking it in water, if possible, place it back in its position in the mouth using a handkerchief to bite it and keep the piece in place.
Go to a nearby but experienced clinic. In the tourist spots there are prestigious centres with great experience in the attention of tourists and foreign residents. In Artedental, for example, they have a polyglot team, especially Anglo and German-speaking, and specialised in dental implants. A tooth or fragment that is reimplanted during the 30 minutes after its fall has an 80% chance of being successfully reinserted. That is why it is so important to act quickly and calmly.
The team at this port clinic regrets that the majority of the population is unaware of this protocol. In fact, according to the Spanish Society of Spanish Endodontics (AEDE, for its acronym in Spanish) recently admitted that 90% of Spaniards are unaware that most of the teeth can be reimplanted. “If our patients came with the fragments or the lost pieces immediately after the incident, we could do much more for them,” they explain in Artedental.
In the same way that Wallace narrated his sick and failed obsession to avoid becoming another tourist, in these cases it would be convenient to forget the tourist status for a moment, to get rid of that ephemeral visitor’s own behaviour and to act calmly and knowingly, choosing a appropriate clinic. In addition, depending on the seriousness of the contusion, it is also appropriate to call the emergency number, 112.