Caring For Your Teeth During Cancer Treatment

When dealing with cancer, you may think that your dental care is not a big deal. The truth is, there are many oral health issues that can cause complications in your cancer treatment and that put you at a higher risk for infection and illness. Talk with your family dentist about oral care during your treatment regime.

Oral evaluation prior to treatment.

Make an appointment with your dentist before you begin cancer treatment to identify any possible sources of infection or sites of trauma to the tissues of your mouth.

Oral health during your cancer treatment.

It is especially important to see your dentist during your cancer treatment, and communication between providers is crucial.

If you are having radiation treatments:

  • Talk to your dentist about foods that won't irritate the mouth and tender oral tissue, as well as foods that don't cause tooth decay.
  • Stretch your chewing muscles prior to radiation, and during your regimen. If your mouth is in the path of the radiation, fibrosis can develop which makes chewing difficult. Learn how to exercise these muscles to curb the effects.
  • Be cognizant of any tender tissue or sores in your mouth or along the gums, and notify your dental provider immediately. These can become prone to infection which is especially problematic during cancer treatment.

If you are on a regimen of chemotherapy:

  • Be sure to pay attention to any rise in body temperature. Oral infections can cause a fever, which is problematic during chemo.
  • Blood work should be scheduled according to your chemo treatments. Talk with your dental scheduler and disclose any upcoming treatments.
  • Plan on having blood work done prior to dental treatment to assess your blood. This is to prevent possible infection or hemorrhage during dental procedures.

Oral health follow-up after treatment.

Even though you are done with your cancer treatment, your dentist will want to review your blood work prior to dental treatments and procedures.

Some long-range concerns for cancer patients regarding oral health include:

  • Radiation treatments can make you at higher risk for cavities.
  • Radiation treatment around your head and neck can impact the amount of saliva you produce, so you will need to pay attention to oral health to prevent gum disease and other complications.
  • Many patients find that radiation treatment alters their mouth and if you wear dentures, you may need to be refitted as your dentures don't fit anymore.

Visit a local dental office, such as Williams Lake Dental, for advice specific to your situation.


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