Every year in the United States hundreds of thousands of people undergo radiation and chemotherapy treatment to fight cancer. With the all anxieties a patient undergoes during the treatment process, dental care is the last thing on their mind. However, dental care is a very important aspect to consider when enduring cancer treatment. Cancer Patients who have excellent oral health are less likely to have severe complications from their treatment than those with poor oral health.“Radiation used for cancer treatment can cause and intensify certain oral health problems. Dental treatment before, during, and after cancer chemotherapy requires special considerations.” says Dentist Fort Lauderdale Dr. Robert B Stanton DMD
How Does Chemotherapy Affect your Mouth?
Chemotherapy works by killing rapidly growing cancer cells. Unfortunately, chemotherapy also may attack certain healthy cells inside the mouth mistaking them for cancer cells. Radiation to the head and neck can destroy salivary glands causing dry mouth and reducing levels of important immunoglobulins in saliva.
People undergoing chemotherapy may experience:
- Dry mouth
Radiation sometimes leads to a dry mouth making it an ideal place for bacteria too thrive.
- Soreness and Ulceration of the Mouth
Chemotherapy can cause the lining of the mouth to become very sore, and form small ulcers known as mucositis and can be very painful.
- Mouth infections
Chemotherapy can temporarily reduce the number of white blood cells in the blood. If the number of white blood cells in your blood is reduced, you may get an infection. So for a while after chemotherapy your resistance to infection may also be reduced. The most common mouth infection is a fungal infection called thrush, also known as candidiasis. Thrush usually appears as white patches, or a white coating, over the lining of the mouth and tongue.
- Bleeding gums
Occasionally some bleeding or ulceration of the gums may develop making it susceptible to infection and bacteria.Damage to the cells in the mouth is temporary, and most side effects will disappear once the cancer treatment has concluded and the number of white blood cells has returned to normal. However damage to salivary glands is permanent.
Preventing Oral Problems During Chemotherapy
Prevention of oral problems during cancer treatment begins before treatment even starts. First step is to see a dentist and dental hygienist a few weeks before chemotherapy treatment begins. Your doctor can recommend a dentist that specializes in caring for patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Once your treatment starts there’s a lot you can do to keep your mouth healthy:
Keep your mouth moist.
- Drink a lot of water.
- Use sugarless gum or sugar-free hard candy to stimulate saliva production.
- Use a saliva substitute to help keep mouth wet
- Use prescription fluoride toothpaste, rinses and custom made oral trays that deliver fluoride gel.
- Sharp, crunchy foods that could cause abrasions in your mouth
- Food that is hot, spicy, or high in acid, which can irritate your mouth
- Sugary foods and drinks that could cause cavities
- Tobacco products
- Alcoholic drinks
- Any sticky starchy foods.
A dentist can design a personalized oral hygiene program for each patient. That program can be modified throughout therapy according to his or her medical status. It’s important to look in your mouth every day for sores or other changes and inform your Dentist if something doesn’t feel or look right.
Tips to Follow After Chemotherapy is completed
Oral problems usually go away after treatment is completed. However, some people continue to experience difficulties following cancer treatment. It can often be a good idea to see your dentist once you have finished your treatment. Your teeth are more prone to decay during treatment, and it can be helpful to get a post treatment dental check-up. Make sure your doctor and dentist are aware of any persistent side effects.
Dentist Fort Lauderdale Dr. Robert Stanton DMD is Qualified
If you or a family member is undergoing cancer treatment or will be in the near future, contact Dentist Fort Lauderdale Dr. Robert Stanton DMD he specializes in patients undergoing chemotherapy. Dr Robert Stanton understands that patients have enough to worry about with their treatment, and wants to make sure oral health is not one of them.