If you have just received a diagnosis of any type of cancer, you may feel like your life has been turned upside down. You may be scared, frightened, anxious and worried. All of these things are very normal, and common reactions to this type of diagnosis. Based on the type of cancer you may have been diagnosed with, your treatment plan may include surgery, chemotherapy and / or radiation. In some cases, all three treatments will be used; in other cases a combination of the three will be used.
Once your treatment plan is determined, please take the time to call your dentist to schedule an emergent appointment. If you will be receiving radiation or chemotherapy, some of these treatments can impact the health of your mouth and teeth. Tell the appointment secretary or receptionist of your situation, and they will work to get you in to see the dentist as soon as possible, and ideally before you begin either radiation or chemotherapy.
Depending on the site to be irradiated, you may develop dry mouth. Dry mouth can be treated with certain medications and over the counter remedies, but does increase your risk of developing gum disease and tooth decay.
Certain chemotherapeutic agents can cause gum hyperplasia, making you more susceptible to developing gum disease and periodontitis. If your treatment plan includes beginning chemotherapy, ask your dentist to schedule a dental cleaning and checkup prior to initiation of your chemotherapy. This will help keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible during this time.
Finally, certain types of radiation and chemotherapy may lower your immune system response. During this time, it is important to follow the instructions given to you by your health care team. Limiting the exposure to harmful bacteria during this time will help keep you healthy during this time. Having your teeth cleaned prior to beginning therapy will help keep the plaque levels down in your mouth, and may help keep you healthier during treatment.
During this stressful time, do all you can to keep yourself healthy. Taking care of the ‘little’ things before your major treatment starts will help give you some peace of mind.
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