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Backpacking & Dental Care

Getting away from the city for awhile can be a great way to distress, especially if you spend that time getting back to nature. However, your getaway may take a wrong turn if you don't prepare a good dental care strategy in advance. While having your dentist check your teeth before your trip is a good precaution, following a few tips for proper oral care on the road is also wise.

Tips for Tooth Care in the Wilderness

Storing Your Supplies

When you're backpacking in the wilderness, the last thing you want to do is attract wild animals, so leave the minty fresh toothpaste at home. Bring along an unscented or unflavored toothpaste, instead. Storing your toothbrush in a plastic container is also advisable and an empty water bottle is an excellent choice. Finally, if you must bring your fluoride mouthwash, store it in a smaller container and secure it in a sealable plastic bag. This will help make the scent less obvious to animals.

Brushing Your Teeth

Again, attracting animals and insects is a concern, so choose a location away from your campsite and only brush in this area. Just as you would at home, be sure to brush your teeth at least twice per day. If you didn't bring mouthwash, you should have enough bottled water for rinsing, as well as the water you brought along for drinking. Be sure to pack everything up securely, before you leave the designated tooth brushing area.

Did You Forget Something?

Suppose you forgot your toothbrush, or maybe it got lost, but you still want to brush your teeth. One option is to pick a dead twig and chew the bark off to expose the wood fibers, which can be used as toothbrush bristles. For something a little softer, try wrapping a clean washcloth or towel around your finger. If you also forgot your toothpaste, or if you wear dentures, rinsing frequently with water will help flush bacteria and food particles out of your mouth. These are temporary fixes until you can buy replacements.

Handling Dental Emergencies Far from Civilization



If you're out in the wilderness, you should have a first aid kit with you. Grab the aspirin from the kit and dissolve it in half a cup of warm water. Swish the water around in your mouth to dislodge any food particles and hold the water in your mouth for at least 30 seconds. See a dentist as soon as possible.

Swollen Jaw

Typically, a swollen jaw is just one symptom of an abscessed tooth, so visiting a dentist is a priority. In the meantime, you can reduce the pain and swelling by holding a cold pack against the cheek. Press gently over the affected area until the swelling goes down. Alternatively, an analgesic can be taken every four hours.

Various Oral or Dental Emergencies

You may experience broken or chipped teeth, cuts on the lips or tongue, or other types of oral health issues. Since you're in the wilderness and far from professional help, you'll have to do your best to care for these problems yourself. First, rinse your mouth with warm water to alleviate the pain and flush contaminants out of your mouth. If bleeding is present, press a clean cloth or cotton ball against the source of the bleeding until it stops. A cold compress held over the affected area will reduce swelling.
These guidelines can help you care for your teeth, while you're far from modern amenities. It may be little more cumbersome to care for your teeth in the wilderness, but making the effort will protect you from gum disease and tooth decay. Your backpacking adventure should be fun and exciting, not a dental nightmare.


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