Chemotherapy, Radiation and Dentistry
Dr. Matt here.
There are many reasons for using chemotherapy as a treatment. It is important that you include your oral health care providers early on. We recommend if possible one month prior to treatment. The Dentist and Dental Hygienist will develop a management plan to help aid in your care as you go through treatment. Here is a helpful website that can answer most of your questions.
Summary. See your Dentist/Hygienist or have a conversation one month prior to treatment. Chemotherapy doesn’t always affect your oral health in a bad way but when it does it can be complicated. Sometimes eating, swallowing, and getting comfortable can be difficult. Most common are mouth sores, decreased saliva, taste changes and discomfort. An initial assessment is important because it gives a baseline prior to starting your treatment.
Often we will fabricate trays that fit your teeth to administer calcium and fluoride topically everyday. Additionally we want you to drink a lot of water. Pick up some candies with xylitol as the first ingredient to help with the effects of dryness. We also will want you to use a saliva substitute at nighttime if your mouth remains dry during and after treatment. If things get bad there are prescription rinses available to help. A home remedy is warm water with a little baking soda and salt to rinse with. You may need to slow down your eating and use water to moisten your food as you go, smaller bites, and slowing the mealtime down.
You may want to avoid crunchy hard foods, acidy foods, sugary foods, tobacco, and alcohol.
For information on dry mouth we have found this website to be helpful.
Radiation therapy may be part of your treatment as well as Chemotherapy and even surgery too. So planning ahead is time well spent. Communication between you and all caregivers is helpful. Radiation even if it is not to the head and neck can have oral complications. All the treatments can affect the entire body. Sometimes if radiation is planned for the head and jaws shielding with special oral devices may be necessary. This is standard now but hasn’t always been. It is worth talking about. “Do I need to have my teeth shielded from the radiation beam?”
It is hard to predict how the treatments will go but talking about it and coming up with a plan is helpful.
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