Quality Dentistry for Discerning Adults

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Cancer affects your mouth

Both cancer and cancer treatments affect oral health, and are affected by the patient's oral condition.  This is true both for cancers in the mouth itself, and for cancers in other parts of the body.

Cancer treatment

Radiation therapy can permanently damage salivary glands if they are in the field of radiation. Chemotherapy can change the composition of saliva, creating a sensation of dry mouth.

Of the 1.2 million Americans diagnosed with cancer each year, about one-third develop oral complications from their cancer treatment.  These complications can be so debilitating that doctors are forced to use lower, less effective doses of cancer curing drugs, to postpone scheduled treatments, or even discontinue cancer treatment entirely.  Oral complications or disease can also be a source of infections that interfere with cancer therapy or pose a serious threat to patient survival.

For these reasons, cancer patients need a dentist as part of their team of treating healthcare professionals.

Dr. Fox has experience and expertise in helping cancer patients while cooperating with their treating physicians.

Dry Mouth

Cancer patients with dry mouth will find helpful information on our web page devoted to xerostomia (abnormally dry mouth).

Keeping your mouth healthy during cancer therapy

You can do a lot to protect your oral health during cancer treatment, and to ensure that your oncologist's treatment can be successfully completed, by proper care of your mouth.

The first step is to see a dentist before starting any cancer treatment.

When possible, completion of any dental treatment needed to eliminate oral infection, root canal problems, abscessed teeth, gum disease or cavities is best done two weeks before beginning any cancer treatment.  If is crucial that your dentist be a capable, well-informed member of your cancer treatment team.  Working in conjunction with your physicians and other health care providers, your dentist can help you avoid  painful oral complications that could force you to discontinue your cancer therapy.

If you would like to benefit from Dr. Fox's expertise in coordinating oral care with cancer treatment please be sure to tell our office staff so we can make special arrangements to begin your evaluation and care quickly.  Any oral disease (like gum disease or cavities) will need to be treated as soon as possible, preferably before cancer treatments begin.

Check your mouth daily during cancer treatment

Once cancer treatment begins, it is important to check your mouth daily for the occurrence or oral sores, irritations, swelling, discomfort or any other changes. Should you encounter anything unusual or suspicious, call your dentist immediately.

Preventing or treating sore mouth

Mouth soreness is a common problem for cancer patients.  Following your dentist's recommendations will prevent many problems.  Make sure you keep your dentist aware of any changes in how your mouth feels. To prevent discomfort, the following measures may be helpful as well:

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Keep your mouth moist (see our web page on dry mouth for tips on how to do this).

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Brush your teeth, gums, and tongue with a soft toothbrush after every meal or snack, and at bedtime.  If this is painful, soften the bristles first with warm water or use a special extra-soft toothbrush.

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Use a fluoride toothpaste with the American Dental Association seal of approval.  Some pastes are milder and easier for patients with sore mouth, consult with your dentist for specific recommendations.

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Use a fluoride containing mouth rinse or prescription fluoride gel as recommended by your dentist.

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Avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol, which will both sting and cause further dryness.  Check the label carefully for this ingredient.

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Floss gently at least once a day.  If excessive bleeding or pain in the gums complicates flossing do the best job you can, particularly in areas that are not already sore.

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If approved by your dentist and physician, rinses several times a day with a solution of baking soda (1/4 teaspoon) and salt (1/8 teaspoon) in a cup of warm (not hot) water may be soothing.

If your mouth is sore or painful

Consult with your dentist and your physician or oncologist.  To enhance comfort, the following measures are often helpful:

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Eat nutritious foods that are good for you, easy to chew, and easy to swallow.

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Take small bites of food, chew slowly, and sip liquids while eating.

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Avoid hard or crunchy foods.

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Avoid spicy foods, alcoholic beverages, and citrus fruits or juices, all of which may cause further stinging or burning sensations.

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Avoid or reduce any tobacco use.

 

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Abington, PA 19001

 

David J. Fox, D.M.D., P.C.

Quality Dentistry for Discerning Adults ®

Telephone: (215) 481-0441

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