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Most people are aware cancer treatments can cause side effects, like nausea, hair loss or feeling tired, but did you know that more than one-third of people treated for cancer develop complications that affect the mouth?
Head and neck radiation, chemotherapy and blood and marrow transplantations can cause oral complications that may interfere with cancer treatment and diminish a cancer patient’s quality of life.
Cancer treatments can affect oral tissue and lead to systemic infections. The complications can vary in degrees of severity depending on the type of cancer and the treatment— from mild to so debilitating that patients may only tolerate lower doses of therapy, postpone scheduled treatment or discontinue treatment entirely.
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the National Institutes of Health, recommends cancer patients receive an oral evaluation by a knowledgeable dentist before cancer treatment begins to reduce the risk and severity of oral complications.
A pretreatment exam can identify and treat existing infections, prevent or minimize mouth complications that compromise nutrition, and reduce or prevent bone loss and potentially serious systemic infections that could jeopardize your treatment schedule.
For example, your pretreatment oral evaluation will establish a baseline report about your oral health status, making it easier in subsequent examinations to identify potential problems that could be risky to your overall health. Your dental team will also be able to treat problems that you may not be aware of, such as infection, fractured teeth or periodontal disease that could contribute to oral complications when your cancer therapy begins.
Before the exam, your dentist will need important information about your cancer diagnosis, treatment plan, medical history and dental history. This open communication between your oncology team and dentist is essential to ensure that each provider has the information necessary to deliver the best possible care.