Dental Care for Cancer Patients Before, During, and After Treatment
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), some 40% of cancer patients receiving treatment are at risk for oral health problems.
A cancer diagnosis and the subsequent treatment can force oral hygiene and dental treatment to the bottom of the list of priorities.
But the mouth is particularly prone to the effects of radiation and chemotherapy. If the cancer is in the head-neck, then the impact of treatment can be even more intense.
Dentists urge people with cancer to pay special attention to their mouths at critical points during treatment.
Have you recently been diagnosed with cancer? Here’s what you need to know to keep your smile healthy.
What to Do Before Starting Cancer Treatment
Cancer patients should aim to get their teeth and gums as healthy as possible before starting treatment. If you prepare well beforehand, you’ll likely be in a better position to tolerate treatment. It can be much worse if your mouth is unhealthy.
A strong foundation of oral health reduces your chances of treatment complications such as:
● Dry mouth ● Sensitive teeth ● Sore tongue, gums, and other oral tissues ● Increased risk of cavities
Plan a visit to the dental office for a checkup at least one month before you start treatment.
Your Tacoma dentist will take x-rays and records to carefully document the condition of your mouth. If you need any treatment, you should get it taken care of right away. This will eliminate the need for any uncomfortable or potentially dangerous dental procedures during cancer treatment. You’ll also want plenty of time to recover before you start chemotherapy or radiation.
Depending on your needs, your dentist may recommend fillings, crowns, extractions, or denture adjustments.
This first checkup is also your opportunity to get a thorough dental cleaning and some tailored advice for taking care of your mouth during cancer treatment.
Dental Care During Cancer Treatment
While undergoing treatment for cancer, you mouth will be highly prone to bleeding, infection, inflammation, and injury. Maintaining good oral hygiene may not be easy, but the more you can do, the more comfortable your mouth will be.
Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and brush gently multiple times a day. Try to brush after every meal and right before going to bed. Brush with a fluoride toothpaste. Your tooth enamel needs lots of fluoride to resist decay. Floss as many teeth as you can daily but skip areas that are irritated from cancer therapy.
Supplement your oral hygiene routine with an alcohol-free antibacterial mouthwash. A dentist can even recommend a therapeutic one to use during cancer treatment.
To reduce debris and bacteria throughout the day, rinse with a mixture of one teaspoon of baking soda, one teaspoon of salt, and one quart of warm water. This rinse can cleanse and soothe oral tissues while neutralizing acids from your food.
If dry mouth is causing you a lot of discomfort, sip on water and chew on some sugar-free gum or candies.
Cancer treatment can also cause oral mucositis, a painful inflammation of mouth tissues. If your mouth is burning and sensitive, avoid the following:
● Hot foods and drinks ● Tobacco and alcohol ● Spicy foods ● Hard crunchy foods
Visit a Tacoma dentist as often as you can during cancer treatment. This will ensure that your teeth stay clean and problem-free. The dentist can also give you recommendations to suit your needs at that time and diagnose infections.
Professional fluoride treatments could be your key to keeping your teeth safe throughout the course of cancer treatment. Your dentist can provide those for you, as well.
Dental Care After Finishing Cancer Treatment
The goal of dental care during cancer treatment is to keep your mouth comfortable and healthy. You certainly don’t need any dental problems on top of what you’re currently struggling with.
Once your treatment is done, follow up with the dentist to see if there are any needed repairs. You may have to come in for frequent three-month visits to stabilize your oral health.
With the battle behind you, you may want to celebrate by treating yourself to a little smile makeover. Kicking cancer is a great reason to show off your smile!
The team at Duke Bui, DDS, PS - Family Dentistry wishes you (or your loved one) all the best in the fight against cancer. Let us help you make the treatment a success by taking care of your dental needs every step of the way.
Call us today for more details.