Most cancer patients who undergo radiation therapy are aware of the risks and side effects associated with the treatment, but not all are familiar with its effects on oral health. According to the American Dental Association, approximately one-third of Americans diagnosed with cancer suffer from painful oral complications after receiving radiation therapy. Radiation in the head and neck regions of the body can cause patients to develop dry mouth, hypersensitive teeth, rapid tooth decay, and lesions.
They may also experience difficulty swallowing. Although most of these effects are caused by radiation, chemotherapy may also result in damage to the oral cavity. To prevent these effects, the ADA suggests that a patient’s oncologist and dentist work together before and during treatments. Patients undergoing cancer treatments should typically brush their teeth gently twice a day and may need to use a special saliva-replacement product to combat dry mouth. An increase in the frequency of fluoride treatments may also be recommended. The most important thing for patients to remember is to maintain constant and proactive communication with their dentists and oncologists.
Both health professionals care about their patients’ well-being and can benefit from coordinating their treatments. If you are anticipating cancer treatments in the near future, talk to your True Care Advantage dental plans dentist for individualized advice and recommendations. He or she will perform a full oral examination and work with you to maintain your healthy smile.