If you answer YES to any of the following questions, you owe it to yourself to have an experienced dental oncologist on your cancer care team.
For most chemotherapeutic drugs, severe dry mouth is a major side effect. Untreated dry mouth, or xerostomia, can lead to rapid decaying of teeth and increase the risk for oral infections. Dry mouth also affects chewing and swallowing.
Head and neck radiation therapy affects the bone that supports the teeth. Dental work should be completed and dental clearance given before the commencement of radiation therapy. Salivary glands are often included in the field of radiation and extreme dry mouth may result. Oral ulcers are common when radiation is administered to the head and neck. The patient undergoing head and neck radiation must make oral hygiene a top priority for his or her lifetime.
Bisphosphonates may be included as part of the drug regimen for patients with bone metastases. These drugs affect the jaws causing some concern for certain dental procedures. The risk for complications could last a lifetime, but may be well-managed with proper dental care from an experienced dental oncologist.
Dental Plaque contains bacteria. Most cancer treatments lower the immune system’s ability to combat microorganisms. A bacterial load that would be well-controlled under normal circumstances may easily turn into an infection requiring hospitalization. A significant number of bacteremia (bacteria in the blood) cases during cancer therapy are believed to be of an oral origin.
Oral pain can affect eating which ultimately influences proper nutrition. Mouth sores are painful and can become so debilitating that scheduled cancer therapy may be placed on hold until the ulcers are resolved. Delaying cancer treatment may affect a successful outcome. Other oral issues like yeast infections and viral outbreaks are common with some cancer treatments. Having an experienced dental oncologist on your teams means you have someone on your side to help you through any oral complication that may arise during your cancer journey.