We talked before about the potential need for reconstructive dentistry after cancer treatment. But that’s only part of the cycle of care. In order to ensure you get the full care you need, we have to start your cancer-related oral care before you begin radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
Benefits of Seeing Your Dentist before Cancer Treatment
Cancer treatment is hard on the body, but your dentist can help make it a little easier by eliminating oral health problems that can lead to complications during your treatment. This can lead to a better experience during cancer treatment by:
- Minimizing — possibly preventing — oral pain during and after treatment
- Helping the body tolerate optimal treatment schedule
- Reducing oral complications
- Helping you get optimal nutrition during treatment
- Reducing risk of oral infections that can become systemic infections
As a result of dental treatment before you begin cancer treatment, you will have a better chance of getting optimal results from cancer treatment, and can enjoy a better quality of life throughout the treatment cycle.
Four Steps for Pretreatment
When you come in for pretreatment, we want to accomplish four main goals to ensure you have the best experience possible during cancer treatment.
Treat any existing conditions. We want to make sure that we have all potential sources of infection under control. During cancer treatment, these infections can spread out of control and become a danger not just to your mouth, but to your life. We will use tooth-colored fillings to treat cavities, treat gum disease, and perform root canal therapy on infected teeth or teeth at risk. We will also identify other sources of infection that may require other treatment, such as preventive treatment for herpes virus. We may need to get information from your cancer doctor (oncologist) to make some treatment decisions.
However, we will perform only necessary dental treatments at this time. Although risks are small, they are significant enough that we want to postpone elective dentistry until after your therapy.
Remove all potential sources of irritation and trauma. This can include anything in the mouth that can be a problem later. Fixed orthodontic appliances will have to be removed because they can irritate your mouth, resulting in potential sores that can become serious during cancer treatment. Removable orthodontic appliance therapy may have to be discontinued depending on the nature and location of your cancer treatment.
We will also have to remove teeth that may pose problems later. Since extraction is associated with a serious oral complication (osteonecrosis of the jaw), it’s better to extract questionable teeth at least 14 days before you are scheduled to begin cancer treatment.
Educate you about what is expected of you in terms of oral care and dental visits. It’s vital that you take proper care of your oral health during treatment. We will talk to you about the proper oral hygiene schedule. We’ll review trouble spots on the basis of your current oral health, such as places where you tend to have more plaque or tartar buildup than other places.
We’ll also go over proper techniques for brushing and flossing. Everyone benefits from a refresher every now and then. We’ll also talk about alternative care tools that might serve you better. If you’re having trouble getting your teeth clean with a manual brush, an electric toothbrush might be better. If flossing isn’t working for getting plaque out from between your teeth, maybe an interdental brush might work better. And maybe an irrigator will help clear out around your teeth, too.
Fluoride trays are often recommended. These are similar to custom whitening trays, but they help supply your teeth with this vital mineral so you can reduce your risk of cavities.
Schedule a series of diligent follow-up visits to help us keep you healthy during and after your treatment. We may need to see you as much as once every 8 weeks during treatment, and maybe as much as once every six weeks after active radiation treatment. Your recovery rate will govern how quickly we can transition you back to a normal checkup schedule.
Reconstructive and Elective Dentistry
Your recovery will also determine when you are able to consider reconstructive dentistry and resume getting elective dental procedures. Consult with your oncologist and other treating doctors to find out when or if you can consider reconstructive dentistry. If there are specific care guidelines we have to follow, put us in contact with your doctors so we know the best approach to getting you the results you desire.
If you are looking for a dentist in Blue Bell, PA who can help ensure your oral health before, during, and after cancer treatment, please call today for an appointment with Dr. Kenneth Siegel at Dental Excellence of Blue Bell.