Cancer treatment is overwhelming and brings many questions and concerns. While oral health may not be at the forefront of your thoughts, necessary cancer treatments often cause significant side effects to the mouth. At Dentistry of Arizona, we care about prevention and strategizing how to maintain oral wellness during cancer therapy.
In the United States, more than 1.6 million people are diagnosed with cancer every year. Fortunately, successful treatment including chemotherapy and radiation continue to emerge and survival rates are improving. Even if the cancer is far away from the the head and neck region, the side effects of chemotherapy can cause ulcers in the oral cavity and throat.
If you or someone you know experiences mouth pain during chemotherapy, options for comfort care exist. While a product like Oragel can be applied to mouth sores, it’s often ineffective if multiple areas break down. We may be able to prescribe a mouth rinse formulated to soothe and coat painful lesions. Designed as a swish and spit formula, a simple prescription could help make life a little easier during treatment.
COMFORT AND PROTECTION
In general, radiation therapy is targeted to the specific tumor location and the head and neck is untouched. However, if radiation targets areas where the salivary glands are located in the head, there can be permanent reduction of saliva. Dry mouth, known as xerostomia, can make the mouth very parched and uncomfortable. It can be a challenge to swallow, eat, taste food, and leaves teeth very prone to developing cavities.
We help patients struggling with xerostomia find ways to increase their comfort while decreasing their risk of major dental problems. Ask us about prescription rinses for dry mouth, Xyli-melt lozenges, and prescription-grade fluoridated toothpaste to prevent cavities while undergoing cancer treatment and after treatment if you notice a dry mouth.
PRIOR TO BEGINNING CANCER TREATMENT
If possible, it can be helpful to have a dental exam prior to starting any chemotherapy treatment and evaluate if any teeth have active infection or gum disease. Some chemotherapy drugs have a rare, but serious side effect of jawbone damage or osteonecrosis. This condition develops when a tooth needs to be removed during active treatment. Completing a dental evaluation and treating any infected teeth prior to beginning chemotherapy treatment is a very helpful way in preventing unnecessary complications of osteonecrosis.
STANDING WITH YOU
Facing cancer involves many challenges, but our team is here to help you manage your oral health before, during, and after your therapy. Healthy teeth will add to the richness of the years beyond your treatment, so together we can develop short and long-term strategies for optimal wellness. Please feel free to discuss any concerns or questions you may have, and encourage your loved ones to maintain their oral health through their cancer care.