Cancer Treatment Therapies and Their Impact On Tooth Decay

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By Jason C. Campbell, D.D.S. 
Pro Solutions Dental Group Family, Implant & Reconstructive Dentistry

Cancer treatment therapies are designed to target fast growing tissues.  Popular cancer treatment regimens often include chemotherapy and radiation therapy.  What many people fail to recognize is that some of the fastest growing tissue in the human body is associated with the oral cavity.  Oral mucosa and salivary glands are often collaterally damaged during treatment.  Before it is too late, many often don’t consider the negative effects of radiation and or chemotherapy on these oral tissues can be long lasting and, in many instances, permanent.

When undergoing radiation or chemotherapy, an individual’s salivary glands are often affected: the quantity of or quality of the saliva can be altered.  Saliva plays a crucial role in protecting teeth against tooth decay because it harbors enzymes and immunities that typically act against oral bacteria that promote tooth decay.  The role of saliva is in buffering and neutralizing the effect of oral acids, which are “THE” products that cause cavities.  What other factors often cause an increase in oral acidity?

  • Oral bacteria produce acids naturally as a byproduct of their metabolism. Once adequately produced, the concentration of acid has the ability to dissolve the mineral from the enamel and dentin of teeth.
  • Food and beverage products high in acid can lend to the same problem by dissolving minerals due to increased oral acidity.
  • Digestive acids (stomach acid) in people who suffer from heartburn, acid reflux and GERD can also be contributors to dental demise. If tooth decay can develop in the mouth of a healthy person, you can imagine the effect within someone who no longer has the ability to produce adequate saliva to buffer against decay causing acid, or the individual who is immunocompromised and cannot defend against oral bacteria.

The dental outcome for those fighting or surviving cancer can be devastating to teeth and gums.  It is heartbreaking for me as a dental provider to inform good people that the effect of their cancer treatment, which was designed to cure them, has also been the cause of devastation to their teeth.  Not to mention the financial implications to the person who has invested thousands of personal dollars to cure cancer – only to turn around and have to spend thousands more if they want to continue eating in their post cancer life.  It is especially heartbreaking knowing that there are very effective protocols to help individuals to use preventive measures to avoid these devastating dental outcomes if only someone intervened early with good preventive care protocols.

Like the standards that dentists champion in the prevention of oral cancer, the bar must be raised, and higher standards established to prevent oral demise for individuals suffering from effects of cancer treatment in other areas of the body.  If an individual diagnosed with cancer truly wants to be dentally successful before, during and after cancer therapy, a consultation with a dental provider and the establishment of individualized prevention protocols are of utmost importance.

Free Oral Health Community Seminar

Get proactive and empower yourself with preventive care information to improve your oral and overall health! Please join me, Jason Campbell, D.D.S., for a FREE Community Oral Health Seminar. The seminar is OPEN TO ALL who want to learn preventive care protocols to avoid tooth decay, but especially for those who will beginning, are in the midst, or have completed cancer therapy.

We’ll have fireside chat time with Q & A so bring your questions and your friends!

You can learn more about Pro Solutions Dental Group’s comprehensive services at www.PrescottDentist.com.

 

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