Cancer Treatments Affect Teeth

With over 1.4 million new cases of cancer diagnosed each year, it's likely that people in the field of dentistry are seeing patients that are undergoing cancer treatments. Because some cancer treatments may affect the oral tissues, you may want to know about potential treatment side effects. It's also important to know that preexisting or untreated oral disease may also complicate cancer treatment. If you are going to be undergoing cancer treatment, make sure to consult a dentist one month beforehand to prevent these kinds of complications.

Oral complications common to both chemotherapy and radiation

• Inflammation and ulceration of the mucous membranes.
• Infections: viral, bacterial, and fungal.
• Salivary gland dysfunction: dry mouth, reduced, or absent salivary flow.
• Impaired abilities to eat, taste, swallow, and speak.
• Taste alterations
• Nutritional compromise
• Abnormal dental development

Oral complications that stem from radiation to the head and neck, or from chemotherapy, may compromise a patient's health and quality of life. They can even affect an individual's ability to finish planned cancer treatments. For some, complications may be so bad that only lower doses of therapy can be endured, which results in a less effective result. Others may opt to postpone scheduled treatments, while a few discontinue cancer treatments entirely. Oral complications may also lead to serious infections.

There are various types of oral complications of cancer treatment; and degrees of severity vary from individual to individual, and also depend on the cancer treatment. The following is a list of common side effects, both to chemotherapy and radiation therapy. It is worth noting that alternative cancer treatments, such as
proton therapy can pose less risk of oral complications. This form of treatment targets a tumor so specifically that there is less dose of the treatment into healthy tissue. This particular type of cancer treatment is often regarded by doctors for patients with cancers in the head and neck, as well as for kids with developing tissue.

Preventative Measures
It is important that the patient understand that in order to reduce risks of oral complications during cancer treatments, he or she needs to have optimal oral hygiene, good nutrition, and avoid tobacco and alcohol. Taking these dental measures during cancer treatment will generally contribute to its success.

Tips for Maintaining Oral Hygiene During Cancer Treatment

• Brush teeth, gums, and tongue gently after each meal and before bed.
• Use an extra-soft toothbrush
• Use fluoride toothpaste.
• Floss teeth every day.
• Use additional fluoride gel treatments.
• Avoid mouthwashes containing alcohol.
• Exercise the jaw muscles a few times a day.
• Avoid candy, gum, and soda unless they are sugar-free.
• Avoid spicy or acidic foods
• Avoid toothpicks
• Avoid tobacco products
• Avoid alcohol.
• Keep all dental appointments.


The Day I Forgot My Retainers

It seems like something weird always happens on vacation. It doesn't matter how well you plan, or how many times you double check your list. There is always something important left behind.

I was thirteen years old and had just gotten my braces off the month before. I was so proud of my new smile. My parents were so happy the expense was just about over. I had two retainers that I had to wear constantly, except when eating. My orthodontist gave me a lecture about keeping track of my retainers, which my Mom repeated the whole car ride home. I knew I was mature and would never lose my retainers. I should have knocked on wood. Part of that lecture included the fact that if I didn’t wear the retainers, my teeth could, and likely would, shift out of alignment. I was about as eager to get back into braces as my parents were to pay for them all over again. So, I was definitely committed to acting in compliance with my orthodontist’s wishes.

We were heading to Family Camp, a fun place in Oklahoma where parents and kids spent a week together in traditional summer camp conditions. As a kid, I thought it was great. My parents have always played a lot with us, so we looked forward to the time together.

Things were going well until the third night. We had just finished supper and I wanted to go to the bonfire and eat marshmallows. My big sister was going to hang out inside with her friends. I decided to give her my retainers, wrapped in a napkin, so I could eat outside. That was mistake number one. My orthodontist had told me to NEVER wrap my retainers in a napkin. I also failed to tell my sister what was in the napkin. That was my second mistake.

After a few too many s'mores, I came back inside to rinse my mouth and pop in my retainers. I ran into my sister as she was heading out the door. I asked her for my retainers, but she just looked at me blankly. Then the realization dawned on her and she went rushing back inside. I followed her inside just in time to see her digging through the trash can.

Thankfully, we found the retainers, but that was not the end of the retainer saga. Two days later we started the long drive home. I slept for most of the time, so didn't realize until we were hours away that I had left my retainers sitting on the edge of my bunk.

My normally fun parents switched to irate parent mode. They made me call the camp and ask them to send my retainers with
expedited shipping if they found them. Even going just a few days without my retainers would have had lasting and costly damage on my new smile, as my parents frequently reminded me.

The director found my retainers and rushed to get them shipped. The next day I was back to wearing my retainers, and busy working off my postage debt. While I no longer need to wear my retainers, I recognize the importance of a healthy smile. As an adult, my smile has given me confidence, and possibly even opened the door to my career.

My Filling Is Made Of What?!

At some point in our lives almost everyone will have make at least one visit to a dentist. Of course the one visit ones being the very lucky ones for certain. The rest of us will make many visits and depending on how you care for your teeth, some of those won’t be fun.

Most people make at least annual visits to have their teeth checked by the dentist and cleaned by a dental hygienist. During the course of the exam, and combined with the amount of junk food that most of us ingest these days, chances are that you will get cavities somewhere along the way.

How to Buy Dental Insurance

Millions of people in the U.S. struggle each and every year to pay for costly dental bills. Many people believe that their dental expenses are covered by their insurance companies when in fact, they will barely cover the minimum fee for a teeth cleaning. Because so many people have come to this realization, there has been a rise in recent years of people purchasing supplemental dental insurance. Just like supplemental vision insurance, supplemental dental insurance is a policy specifically designed to help cover dental expenses for an individual and their family. There is generally an extra premium that must be paid, on top of the regular medical coverage premium, but in return, a person is able to get dental coverage that will save them and their family a lot of money. Here are a few step by step instructions on how to evaluate and buy dental insurance.