As Cancer is fast turning into an epidemic in India, with about two million registered patients, the one thing that does not get due importance in such patients is oral care. Paying attention to basic oral health should be an important part of a cancer patient's routine in order to prevent dental problems that could hinder treatment.
It is recommended to visit a dentist at least one month before starting chemo or radiation therapy. With this proactive approach, your dentist can take care of any existing dental problems you might have and advise you as your cancer treatment progresses, lessening your chance of serious complications.
Chemotherapy cannot tell the difference between normal cells and malignant cells and sometimes injures both. It increases chances of bleeding and infections. If there is pre-existing dental infection such as cavities, abscesses, or gum (periodontal) disease, the infection may become worse. In addition, your gums may bleed easily if they are irritated or swollen.
Chemotherapy may also cause mouth sores (mucositis). These sores usually heal in one to two weeks; Irritation from sharp teeth or fillings may worsen the condition. These symptoms are short lived and generally subside after chemotherapy ends.
Unlike chemotherapy, radiation therapy has long-term side effects in the mouth. The most common side effect is dry mouth (xerostomia). It means the salivary glands produce less saliva and the saliva is thicker. The normal protective effect of saliva on the teeth is lost and there is an increase in oral bacteria that cause cavities. Also, plaque and tarter deposits occur faster, which places you more at risk for cavities and gum disease.
It is very important to get rid of any dental problems atleast a week prior to starting chemotherapy or radiotherapy. The course of events may be as follows
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