You never know when it may strike.

TOOTHACHE, gum disease and teeth damage are a pain on a surf trip. Literally.

Dental problems such as toothache are very unlikely to kill you, although the pain can be so severe, it may seem that way at the time.


  • Hurts all the time?
  • The toothache wakes you up at night?
  • Tooth tender to touch?
  • Possibly some swelling around the gum at the top of the tooth?

You have a dental abscess.

Antibiotics will sort this out in the short term (taking them for anything from a week to 6 months), but ultimately you’ll need to find a dentist for the offending tooth to be pulled, or have the root treated.

  • Sensitive to hot & cold?
  • Pain lasts for more than a few minutes?

It is likely you have some decay in a tooth.

You need to find a dentist to get it filled in or pulled out. There aren’t any serious problems beyond the toothache itself. So if you’re stuck somewhere with no access to a dentist it’s a case of taking some pain killers and just hardening up.

If you are sensitive to hot or cold (more so to cold), some ‘Sensodyne’ type tooth paste rubbed on the teeth should help in a day or 2.

tooth anatomy


Living it up, smoking and drinking excessively, and not brushing your teeth effectively can affect your gums. If your gums bleed or are sore when you brush, you do not have a weird tropical disease, you have boring gum disease! Brushing your teeth and gums twice daily can treat this. The bleeding and soreness will stop in a couple of days.

Wisdom teeth are the teeth that grow right at the back-top & bottom of your trap. The gum surrounding the teeth can become swollen, and you may even begin to have trouble opening your mouth. If this happens it is likely that you have an infection of the gum due to a partially erupted wisdom tooth. Antibiotics and cleaning around the gum with a good toothbrush will sort it out.


broken teeth
Mike’s winning smile after a post-surf skate

You fall and hit your teeth 0r get smacked by a board. Remember to think about the problems you can get from a head injury.

The teeth can break in a number of ways:

Broken Teeth

The crowns (the part of the tooth above the gum) can snap off. This will smart a ‘little’. Probably worth trying to find a dentist who will stabilise it by covering over the broken part. If there are no dentists available, chewing gum over the broken part will ease discomfort a little. Take pain killers.

Wonky Teeth

The tooth is wonky & looks like it has moved. It can catch in the bite. You have likely moved the tooth in its socket.

The treatment is to try to move the tooth back into position. Probably best done by a dentist. You can try moving it back yourself, but it will hurt. Take a firm hold of your tooth and push it back into position.

Loose Teeth

The root of the tooth breaks. If the tooth is very loose you’re probably going to lose it. To try to save it the idea is to stabilise it with some sort of splint. Or if you are in the middle of nowhere, you can try to remove it yourself by taking a firm grip and pulling. Again this will ‘smart’ a bit.


Bad teeth in a very few number of cases can cause life threatening problems.

If you notice that your eye is beginning to close from the swelling on the side of your face, you should make plans to go see someone medical. It is still treatable with oral antibiotics but sometimes doesn’t respond very well, and you may need antibiotics put in your blood (IV). Get to a hospital.

If the floor of your mouth (under the tongue) starts swelling this can cause problems. If you start to notice it is becoming difficult to swallow, and especially if you notice it is becoming difficult to breath, drop what you are doing and get to a hospital. You need antibiotics in the blood (IV).

If you are in the middle of nowhere keep, on taking the oral antibiotics, don’t panic, and aim for the nearest place that can get you I.V. antibiotics.

Hells Mouth
Hells Mouth, Wales, UK


Tooth abscess

Amoxicillin 500mg  x3 day for 7 days.

Clarithromycin 500mg x2 a day for 7 days

Metronidazole 400mg x3 day for 7 days

( only one of the above )

Gum swelling

Metronidazole 400mg x3 day for 7 days

Floor of mouth swelling / eye closing

Metronidazole 400mg x3 a day 7 days + Amoxicillin 500mg x3 a day for 7 days.



Author: Mr Chris Munn

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This article has been written with the traveling surfer in mind.

We get contacted a lot from people with teeth related questions about every day care and management. It can be hard to find out about your teeth without the fear of paying vast sums of money. In our opinion the best website out there for information on everything to do with teeth & their care is It’s a free site written by dentists with really clear, detailed information on everything to do with teeth. It’s the site we use as our main resource when we come across people with dental issues and it’s the one we’d tell you to look at if you ask us anything too complex about your tegs.


There is no substitution for being examined and treated by a medical professional. The intention of the articles on this website is to inform anyone who reads it of medical issues encountered on surf trips.

This website is designed to provide general practical information not specific medical advice.

A large proportion of the photos on this site are not our own. We have tried to reference all that aren’t ours in good faith. Please contact us if you feel any of your pictures could be referenced better.