I will be starting cancer treatment--what should I do to maintain my oral health during treatment?
If your cancer involves the head, neck, or throat, it is essential to discuss with your oncologist how treatment can be provided in a way which spares the salivary glands from radiation. If the salivary glands are destroyed by radiation, severe dry mouth can result, which puts you at very high risk for rampant tooth decay.
If your treatment will involve bisphosphonates, you must see a dentist before starting treatment.
Once bisphosphonates enter your system, there is some risk of jaw bone problems following certain dental procedures. Even without undergoing any dental procedures, areas of the jaw bone can begin to die due to the bisphosphonates, so it is important to schedule regular visits with your dentist for observation.
In the case of any cancer, it is possible that you may be treated with radiation and/or chemotherapy. The side effects of these medications can cause dry mouth, prevent you from taking care of your teeth the way you did before treatment, cause frequent vomiting, and change the types of food you eat.
Dry mouth allows cavities to form and grow very quickly (See FAQs Why is dry mouth so destructive? and What should I do about dry mouth?). Frequent vomiting softens and damages tooth enamel, leading to decay and erosion. It is important to see your dentist regularly during your treatment and use of high-fluoride toothpaste or fluoride trays can be highly beneficial to prevent dental problems during treatment.
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