What to Do When You Have a Tooth Infection While Camping

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Hiking and camping can be a welcome break from civilization, until something goes wrong. Tooth pain can be debilitating even though it is highly localized, simply because it is a pain that is hard to ignore. The following tips can help you deal with a painful tooth infection on the trail until you are able to hike out and meet with a dentist for a permanent treatment.

Tip #1: Treat the pain

Your first aid kit should contain some sort of non-aspirin pain reliever. Take the recommended dosage at the first sign of pain, and continue to take the medication at regular intervals as directed. These pain relievers don't just relieve the pain, they may also help lower any fever that is a result of a tooth infection. This is important since a fever can affect the clarity of your thinking, which is dangerous when you are in the back country. Fevers also tend to lead to dehydration, which can be another deadly concern.

Tip #2: Draw out the infection

If there is swelling along the gum line, you may have an abscess forming. This is when a pocket of infection is collecting around the tooth and irritating the gums and soft tissue. Bring a pot of water to a boil over a camp stove or campfire. Soak a piece of gauze from your first aid kit or another piece of scrap fabric in the hot water and then let it cool just enough so it won't burn you. Pack the warm gauze compress against the infection and replace it with a fresh compress as it begins to cool. The warmth will help draw out the infection, relieving both the swelling and the pain.

Tip #3: Keep the area clean

You will still need to eat if you are to keep your energy up while hiking out. The problem is that food can sometimes irritate the site of the abscess. Take care to chew on the opposite side of your mouth. After eating, rinse out your mouth with warm water to help remove any remaining food particles so they don't cause irritation. If you have salt with you, make up a cup of warm salt water and swish is around in your mouth. The salt helps to sterilize your mouth, and it can also help draw out the infection.

Tip #4: Plug any damage

Sometimes an infection occurs because of a cracked tooth, missing crown, or a broken filling. Plugging the hole or damage may minimize the pain or even prevent a deeper infection from occurring. The best plug is dental wax, which is readily available at pharmacies. If you have crowns or fillings, it makes sense to keep some in your first aid kit. Failing this, a piece of sugar-free chewing gum smoothed over the tooth can also help. If all else fails, bite down on a piece of gauze to help cover the hole and prevent further pain and infection from forming.

Tooth infections shouldn't be ignored. Hike out as soon as possible and schedule an appointment with your family dentist. You'll enjoy your next camping trip all the more when it is pain-free.