Tips to Manage Dental Issues During Cancer Therapy

CURE, Winter 2011, Volume 10, Issue 4

Read about tips to manage dental issues during cancer therapy.

Here are a few tips to help you manage dental issues before, during and after cancer treatment.

> Try to schedule a dental exam at least two weeks before beginning treatment.

> Ask your medical team whether you need to take care of any pre-existing dental issues or mucosal infections before starting therapy.

> Ask your dentist to help create a comprehensive oral hygiene protocol before and throughout therapy.

> Inform your dentist about your cancer treatment, especially if it contains bisphosphonates or RANK ligand inhibitors. These bone-strengthening drugs have about a 2 percent risk of osteonecrosis of the jaw, which can result when the bone tissue in the jaw doesn’t receive enough blood supply and begins to weaken and die. Most cases occur after a dental extraction.

> If you do need dental treatment during therapy, make sure your dentist and oncology team are communicating. Dental procedures should be done when your white blood cell count is high to help prevent infection.

> If dental surgery, such as a tooth extraction, is recommended after bisphosphonate or RANK ligand treatment, ask if there are other alternatives. If not, you may need a surgeon who has experience in treating cancer patients and survivors. Ask your current dentist or medical team to recommend a dental surgeon.

> Ask what side effects you can expect with your cancer treatment. Your oncologist or nurse may be able to suggest medications to stimulate saliva production, topical antimicrobials or antiseptics to help you manage side effects of therapy.