Facing a diagnosis of cancer can be traumatic enough for anybody, but the treatment itself can be quite toxic and can have a significant effect on healthy cells as well as cancerous cells. One of the areas that is often affected by cancer treatment is the mouth as there is a link between radiation treatment and oral health. This is especially problematic for patients being treated for neck and head cancers, and getting treatment from a cancer dentist can make all the difference to being able to manage oral health during this time. Obviously this is highly important, as all too often people wit
Common Radiation and Teeth Problems
The most common problems that can arise due to radiation treatment are infections, bleeding and pain. Radiation therapy can also damage the glands responsible for producing saliva, leading to the patient developing an uncomfortable condition called dry mouth or xerostomia. This can have quite serious implications for oral health, as saliva is important for keeping the oral cavity clean and free from disease. It helps to maintain more neutral pH levels, and also contains vital enzymes that help aid digestion. Saliva is also important for helping to maintain healthy teeth as it contains phosphate and calcium and fluoride ions that help to re-harden tooth enamel.
Teeth and Radiation Caries
The most frequently occurring radiation and teeth problem is that of radiation caries or tooth decay. This occurs as a result of a lack of saliva, and can rapidly progress even in patients who previously enjoyed good oral health. Decay can often be seen in the teeth within just a few months compares to an average of 18 months in patients who aren’t receiving radiation therapy. The decay occurs in quite a distinctive manner, as it’s likely to involve the incisal or biting edges of the teeth, as well as the area of the tooth nearest to the gum line. Sometimes the affected teeth can even break off at the gum line due to extensive decay.
Managing Radiation and Teeth Problems
It is important to try to manage radiation and teeth problems effectively, and the best way to do this is to contact a good cancer dentist like Dr Jonathan Penchas before treatment begins. There are lots of different things they can do to help treatment progress more smoothly, and they can help protect oral health and will be more qualified to deal with problems as they arise. An experienced cancer dentist will be well aware of the problems that can result from radiation and chemotherapy and will do their best to make sure oral health is the very best it can be before treatment even begins. They’ll be able to liaise with the rest of the cancer team so all treatments are coordinated to give the very best results.
The problems presented by radiation therapy really are quite unique, but are much easier to deal with, with the help of a specialist. One important side effect of having a good cancer dentist is that it makes it much easier for the patient to deal with treatment, and makes it far more likely that they’ll be able to eat properly. Good nutrition is hugely important in winning the battle against cancer, both physically and mentally. In addition it can be extremely reassuring for someone fighting cancer to know they are receiving the best possible oral healthcare.