dental care for patients undergoing cancer treatment
At Metropolitan Dental Care, our team understands cancer treatment can be scary and overwhelming. Our Denver dentists are sensitive to the individual needs of our patients and understand the specialized care cancer patients require.
The most common cancer treatments—chemotherapy and radiation—both come with a long line of physical side effects. The most common side effects include hair loss, fatigue, weight loss, and nausea.
However, they can also adversely affect your oral health. For instance, the toxicity of chemotherapy that causes hair loss also affects the rapidly growing cells in the mouth. This causes damage to the mucous membranes and gum tissue. Mouth sores are very common.
On the other hand, your oral health can also compromise your immune system. This could be detrimental for patients already experiencing a weakened immune system due to cancer treatment.
how your oral and physical health are related
All the systems of your body are woven together and designed to function as a whole. This includes your mouth. When one area is unhealthy, it can negatively impact other areas.
The mouth is an opening to your body, and when infection or gum disease is present, bacteria enter your body.
To understand better, consider prophylaxis antibiotics certain patients must take prior to going to the dentist. Doctors recommend that patients with artificial joints or heart valves and certain health issues take antibiotics before all dental treatment. This includes routine teeth cleaning.
Similarly, recent research shows the relationship between oral and physical health. Patients with diabetes or heart disease are at an increased risk for gum disease. In the same manner, patients with gum disease are at an increased risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.
As you can see, removing plaque buildup and treating gum disease is important for everyone, but even more so for someone battling cancer.
oral health side effects of cancer treatment
Chemotherapy and radiation can both have a toxic effect on the soft tissue inside your mouth. They also interfere with your body’s natural ability to heal.
Patients undergoing chemotherapy experience suppressed white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets, which greatly increases the risk of infection. It can also debilitate bone marrow function.
In addition, if cancer is within the head and neck, you have an increased chance of oral health problems.
Cancer treatment may cause a variety of oral side effects, including:
- Damage to mucous membranes lining the inside of the mouth
- Painful mouth sores (canker sores and cold sores)
- Tongue swelling and a burning sensation
- Increased risk of infection
- Mouth and gum pain
- Dry mouth (increased risk for tooth decay and gum disease)
- Foul aftertaste in the mouth
- Taste alteration
- Weakened tooth enamel
- Cracked teeth
- Tooth loss
understanding the importance of a healthy smile
All patients undergoing cancer treatment should pay special attention to oral health to reduce the risk of serious problems. In children, however, the need is even higher, especially for children under the age of nine. This is because children under nine are at risk of abnormal tooth and jaw development.
Because of this, your child’s dentist may want to extract loose primary teeth before cancer treatment. Doing this can help protect their adult teeth.
Children with cancer need a dentist who understands their specialized needs.
Moreover, some adults may require tooth extractions. Your dentist may recommend extracting damaged or decayed teeth that could pose a threat once cancer treatment begins.
Before you undergo cancer treatment, it’s important to see a dentist familiar with your special needs. Together, you and your dentist can craft the most effective plan for maintaining the health of yours or your child’s smile.
Understanding the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy in advance can help prevent potential problems from developing into something more serious.
During cancer treatment, it’s important that you attend all routine dental cleanings and examinations. It is equally important to maintain good oral hygiene habits. This includes flossing daily and brushing your teeth after eating.
Prevention is key, and the best way to keep your teeth and gums healthy is to remove plaque and bacteria regularly.
If you experience oral pain as a result of cancer treatment, you may find the following suggestions helpful:
- Brush carefully with a soft-bristled toothbrush
- Floss daily using gentle techniques
- Avoid mouthwashes with alcohol
- Rinse nightly with a baking soda and saltwater solution to alleviate painful ulcers
- Avoid consuming foods high in sugar
- Avoid spicy, acidic, or hard-to-chew foods
- Do not smoke
- Drink plenty of water to prevent dry mouth
After completion of cancer treatment, your dentist can perform any needed restorative dental care, such as composite fillings or dental crowns.
Before you or your child undergoes treatment for cancer, it is important to schedule a dental appointment. Your dentist can make sure your oral health is in order and can advise you on proper dental care techniques.
Please give our Denver, CO office a call today at (303) 534-2626 or contact us online to schedule your consultation.