February 4, 2016 was World Cancer Day. Its theme, “We Can .I Can.”, focuses on how every individual can play a role in decreasing the burden of cancer. As a dental health professional, it is important that we provide and increasecommunity awareness about cancer.
According to Dr Peter Aldritt, Chair of the ADA’s Oral Health Committee, “We urge cancer patients and people living with cancer to be aware of the possible oral health side effects that could arise during and after treatment. There are a number of simple things that patients can do to make their experience of treatment that little bit easier.”
Receiving cancer treatment will always be the main priority for a patient. However, it is important that cancer patients seek consultations with their dentist about their diagnosis as soon as they can. It is essential that a thorough full oral health assessment is done prior to undergoing cancer treatment. It is always advisable that patients have healthy teeth and gums before commencing their cancer treatment.
The most common side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the following:
1. Ulcers in the mouth
2. Gum infections
3. Bleeding gums
4. Dry mouth
5. Altered taste
Unfortunately for patients, these oral complications may last for months or years. These can cause discomfort and pain for some.
Here are a few simple tips that can minimise oral health discomfort:
1. Keep mouth moist by sipping water frequently
2. Minimise caffeine intake such as coffee or tea – reduces dehydration
3. Avoid sugary food and drinks
4. Avoid acidic food and drinks
5. Avoid hard, dry, spicy food
6. Chew sugar-free gum – helps stimulate saliva in the mouth
7. Use dry mouth gel or spra
If you have any further questions and concerns about how cancer and its treatment can affect your oral health, I highly recommend that you seek professional dental advice as soon as possible.
Dr. Rouel Vergara DMD