Cancer is an unfortunate reality in our lives. Fortunately, when caught early, treatment such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy can eliminate this problem. The downside to these treatment approaches is that they can wreak havoc on the body and especially on the oral health of the patient. For this reason, it is important to know how cancer treatment may affect your dental health and what you can do to mitigate these effects.
Our bodies have the ability to fight off opportunistic infections which is why we are generally healthy as long as we take basic safeguards. However, cancer and the treatment approaches that are used to manage it tend to weaken our immune system. This then makes us vulnerable to gum infections and so on. Understanding this helps us to be extra careful when it comes to managing our dental health. We should do our best to eat food that boosts our immunity. We should also brush, floss, and generally maintain the highest standards of oral hygiene.
Effects on the Mouth
If you are undergoing treatment for cancers that affect the jaw or the neck, there is a chance that the treatment will affect your gums as well. Patients often report dry mouth, sores on the lips and gum, and many other problems. These problems can be treated as they arise by your dentist. You should let your dentist know that you are about to undergo radiotherapy or chemotherapy so he or she can also advise you on how to minimize these side effects.
Treat Any Dental Conditions First
It goes without saying that the healthier your teeth are, the less likely that the cancer treatment will have a significant effect on your teeth. For this reason, it is wise to see a dentist before commencing cancer treatment so any conditions that you may be treated. These include cavities, TMJ disorders, and many others.
Check your Bone Health
Cancer treatment, especially when targeting jaw and neck cancers can lead to the loss of bone mass. Ensuring that you are taking plenty of calcium-rich food and Vitamin D supplements can help mitigate this loss. You can also discuss with your dentist for periodic tests to ensure that any loss of bone mass is detected early and remedial measures are taken.
One of the side effects of cancer treatment is the loss of appetite. For this reason, cancer patients are often given high-calorie food and drinks in order to give their bodies the strength it needs to heal. The downside of this is that these drinks are often laden with sugar. If you have to take high-calorie drinks, ensure that you take them quickly and brush your teeth immediately after to reduce the chances of getting cavities.
Dr. Alex Rubinov is an experienced dental practitioner in New York. The practice offers a range of services including teeth whitening, smile makeovers, cosmetic dentistry, and orthodontics, to name but a few. Contact the team at (718) 253-0800 for an appointment.