Oral Health for Cancer Patients

Oral Health for Cancer Patients

In 2017 it is estimated that 134 000 people in Australia will be diagnosed with cancer. That’s about 15 people every hour. It is a tough time for cancer patients and their friends and families but our Gentle Dentists are here to help you through that by making looking after your oral health as easy as possible.

Each cancer is different and each person’s diagnosis is different so oral consequences are different in each case. We know the last place you probably want to go is the dentist but it is actually even more pertinent to look after your dental health even though this is a difficult time.

The reasons why:

  1. Dental infections can be life threatening for immunosuppressed patients
    • The last thing you want to worry about is a toothache! We will try our best to plan all dental treatment with the consideration to prevent any problems during your cancer treatment
    • Chemotherapy affects the immune system’s fighting ability so an abscess that your body would normally be able to deal with can become septicaemia very quickly
  2. Some cancer drugs may interfere with healing so it is best to have dental treatment before drug regime starts
    • Drugs which are used to inhibit bone renewal can increase the risk of osteonecrosis of the jaw after an extraction, therefore it is best to have any extractions done before your specialist starts your treatment
  3. Side effects of chemotherapy
    • Our patients report altered taste, dry mouth and sensitivity to toothpaste or certain foods
    • We can recommend dry mouth gels and low irritant toothpastes
    • Dry mouth can increase risk of decay so we can recommend high fluoride products
  4. Plaque and calcium build up (tartar) can irritate the gums even more
    • Blood cancers can cause increased swelling and bleeding in the gums.
    • Side effects of chemotherapy or just being sick in general can often result in gum irritation
    • A thorough scale and clean will help remove the build up and bad bacteria and help settle any gum irritation
  5. Radiation in the salivary gland area
    • Head and neck cancer may require radiation in the area and this reduces saliva production. If this is you then it is REALLY important you have a dental plan made because without saliva, your teeth can go from perfect to decay on all of them in as little as 6 months.
    • It is also important to have any dental extractions done before head or neck radiation because it shrinks the blood vessels and any extractions done afterwards, even years after are at high risk of causing osteonecrosis of the jaw.

It is really important that you try see your dentist before starting treatment if possible, so that we can coordinate with your surgeon and oncologists.

If you’re not able to get in for preventive treatment then that’s okay. We understand that it is a very hectic time with scheduling hospital and doctors visits (and probably being sick of needes!). Gentle Dental staff are still here if you need us for dental treatment. Make sure to update your medical history and to have your specialist’s details so that our dentists can liase with them and schedule all procedures with your cancer treatment.

We promise to be as sensitive, empathetic and understanding about your situation because all of our Gentle Dental staff have had a family member be affected by cancer.

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