Cancer and Your Oral Health

A healthy mouth is imperative for a patient who has cancer and is undergoing treatment.  Cancer and cancer treatments, like chemotherapy, weaken your immune system.  This can leave you more prone to infection.  Sometimes these infections can be serious enough to delay cancer treatment.  Studies indicate that 1/3 of all cancer patients develope complications in the mouth.

Radiation treatment for cancer can effect your mouth particularly if the radiation is in the head and neck region.  This can lead to damage to your salivary glands.  You will typically experience thick, sticky saliva and a dry mouth, known as xerostomia. A dry mouth can increase your chances of developing cavaties and infection.

Prior to starting cancer treatment, it is wise to visit your dentist.  Your dental team can evaluate your oral health and discuss treatment you should consider to keep your mouth healthy.  Treatments focus on reducing the possible side effects associated with chemotherapy and radiation.  Fluoride treatments and supplements are typically recommended to prevent cavaities.  Restoration of cavaties with fillings and placement of crown and bridgework will ensure you are able to chew food for proper nutrition. Treatment of gum disease and removal of infected teeth are recommended.

During your cancer treatment you may experience mild-to-severe side effects of mouth sores, dry mouth, sensitive gums and gum disease, jaw pain, and infection. It is important to consult with your cancer care team prior to dental treatments. They can advise you about potential bleeding issues and the risk of infection during dental procedures.

Most of us do not realize that your mouth is an important part of your overall health.  It is important to maintain a healthy mouth before, during and after cancer treatment.  Your dentist and dental team can develop a plan to ensure that the effects of cancer treatment are managed properly to maintain healthy teetrh and gums.

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