dental care for chemotherapy patients
At Metropolitan Dental Care, we are sensitive to the individual needs of our patients. When a cancer diagnosis is delivered, we know it can be scary and overwhelming. Although certain treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation are two of the most common remedies used in treating cancer, both come with a long line of physical side effects, including hair loss, fatigue, weight loss, and nausea. However, they can also have an adverse effect on your oral health. In return, your oral health can also compromise your immune system, which could be detrimental for patients battling cancer and going through treatment.
how your oral and physical health are related
Your mouth, body, and all of its systems are woven together and designed to function as a whole. When one area is malfunctioning, it can negatively impact the other. Research has revealed in recent years how certain physical conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease can be the direct result of harmful oral bacteria. Removing plaque buildup and treating the side effects of periodontal disease are important for anyone, but even more so for someone battling.
oral health side effects of cancer treatment
Chemotherapy and radiation can both have a toxic effect on the soft tissue inside your mouth and your body’s natural ability to heal. Patients undergoing chemotherapy experience suppressed white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets, which can increase their risk for 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.
Chemotherapy and radiation may cause a variety of oral side effects, including:
- Damage to mucous membranes lining the inside of the mouth
- Painful mouth sores
- Tongue swelling and a burning sensation
- Increase risk of infection
- Mouth and gum pain
- Dry mouth
- Foul aftertaste in the mouth
- Taste alteration
- Weakened enamel
- Cracked teeth
- Tooth loss
understanding the importance of a healthy smile
While cancer treatment can be difficult for most patients, and result in the need for restorative dental treatment, it may require specialized dental care for children. In addition to the side effects listed above, children under the age of nine are at risk of abnormal tooth and jaw development. Because of this, prior to undergoing chemotherapy or radiation, your dentist may recommend extracting your child’s loose primary teeth to prevent damage to their adult teeth. Tooth extractions may also be recommended for adult patients who have existing damaged teeth that may pose a threat once cancer treatment begins.
Before you undergo cancer treatment, it’s important to meet with your dentist to craft the most effective plan for maintaining the health of yours or your child’s smile. Knowing the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy in advance can prevent potential problems from developing into something more serious.
During cancer treatment, it’s important that you still attend routine dental cleanings and examinations, as well as maintain good oral hygiene habits to remove unhealthy plaque and bacteria from your teeth and gums. The following may help with minimizing any oral pain as a result of chemotherapy:
- Brush carefully with a soft-bristled toothbrush
- Floss daily using gentle techniques
- Avoid mouthwashes with alcohol
- Rinse nightly with a baking soda and salt water solution to alleviate uncomfortable 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 your cancer treatment is completed, any teeth that need to be repaired can be treated with restorative dental care, such as composite fillings or dental crowns.
If you or your child is about to undergo chemotherapy or radiation, it’s important that you schedule a dental appointment beforehand so your dentist can advise you on the 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.