This article describes some of the oral health and hygiene risks that face frequent flyers and travelers. It then goes on to provide recommendations.
Travelling long distances can take quite a toll on your body. There’s the difference in local time that you need to adjust to, a lack of sleep, cramped seating arrangements and let’s not forget airplane food. But according to the , frequent flyers are not only contending with a tired and sore body. They are also at an increased risk of developing a bacterial infection of the gums, which, if left untreated, could progress into the acute and chronic condition known as periodontal disease.
Periodontal Disease : Seeing the Connection
Oral bacterial infection – periodontal disease – is caused by a combination of poor oral hygiene and a diet that is high in sugar and low in essential nutrients, amongst other factors. This is where frequent flyers need to be careful, says the . When you’re in the air, trapped in your seat for the duration of four to twelve hours and even more, your oral health can take a nosedive. This is not only because your usual oral hygiene routine of brushing and flossing is put on hold, says the , but also because passengers tend to suck on sweets or snack on sugar-rich foods to distract them from the boredom of a long-haul flight. In addition to this, the air inside the aircraft is usually kept cold and dry; fall asleep with your mouth open and all that essential tooth-protecting saliva is evaporated, leaving the enamel vulnerable to bacteria.
Now a single long-haul flight is not going to cause the development of periodontal disease . The point is that if you are a regular flyer – perhaps because of business, college, or family – then you need to be aware of the risk your pearly whites are at. The recommends that you:
- Travel with a toothbrush, toothpaste and anti-bacterial mouthwash in your carry-on luggage. Make sure it is easily accessible throughout the flight and try to brush your teeth after your meal. Gargle with mouthwash every two hours or so, says the .
- Instead of sucking on sugary sweets and snacks, chew sugar-free gum. The stimulated flow of saliva not only compels you to swallow, helping your ears cope with the change in cabin pressure, but the natural anti-bacterial enzymes in it also help to protect your teeth.
- Drink plenty of water, says the . This will keep your body well-hydrated while helping to flush out all the bacteria that naturally accumulate after eating or snacking.
- If snacking gets you through long-haul flights, then try to pack or shop healthily. You don’t need three packets of chips, an assortment of candy bars and a galaxy of sweets to keep you occupied, says the . Try other distractions such as magazines, puzzles, a newspaper or novel.
- Sometimes people just eat because they are bored and this constant snacking leaves the enamel of your teeth vulnerable to elevated acid levels as well as bacterial activity.
A Final Note from the
Regular travelers – especially those that frequently find themselves on long-haul flights – should re-evaluate their habits and remember that their oral health is a priority that requires constant consideration, even at 39,000 ft. above sea level! Periodontal disease can readily be avoided through a simple change of habit and lifestyle.