Cancer and Your Dental Health
Unfortunately, approximately 4 out of 10 of people will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime. If you or a loved one are diagnosed with cancer, there are some things you should know about how cancer treatment can affect dental health and certain types of dental treatment.
Chemotherapy drugs are one of the most common treatments for many different types of cancer. And while those drugs kill cancer cells, they also can harm normal cells. Mouth tissue is especially susceptible, and many cancer patients develop problems with their teeth, gums, and the salivary glands.
Dental Side effects of Chemotherapy
Everyone is different, and there are many different chemotherapy drugs, so not everyone will have the same side effects. One of the most common changes resulting from chemotherapy is a decrease in the amount of saliva produced, leading to dry mouth (this is also known as xerostomia). Dry mouth can be very uncomfortable and in very severe cases can contribute to mouth sores and very rapidly progressing tooth decay. Other possible side effects include pain in the mouth and gums, burning or swelling of the tongue, infections, prolonged bleeding, and a loss of or a change in taste.
It is very important to tell your dentist if you have ever received any sort of chemotherapy, as it can affect how well you heal or contribute to excessive bleeding following dental surgeries like extractions or implants. It might also be necessary to put off some of these types of procedures to decrease your chance of having complications.
Visiting the Dentist for Prevention
Before a person can start chemotherapy, their doctor will usually require that they visit their dentist. This can help prevent serious problems later in treatment, as pre-existing dental problems are usually to blame. Not all side-effects can be avoided, but starting treatment with a healthy mouth will help keep the treatment schedule on track.
After treatment starts, it’s important to carefully monitor your mouth for sores and come in for regular cleanings so that your dentist can continue to monitor your teeth and gums. To keep your mouth moist (the most common problem), be sure to stay well hydrated. Sucking on ice chips, chewing gum, or using a prescription saliva substitute may be helpful.
General Dentist at Virginia Family Dentistry Staples Mill