*Over 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer each year. So there is no doubt that this rotten disease has touched someone in your life.
It ravages the bodies of our grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, best friends, grandbabies … Cancer is no discriminator of persons.
Cancer takes an undeniable toll on its victims. They are exhausted, their bodies are depleted in every possible way. Hair is lost, muscle atrophies, skin becomes ashen, bones become brittle, gums bleed, and teeth fall out.
It is no secret that there are countless struggles associated with people enduring a cancer treatment regimen. Arguably, the biggest challenge is for the suffering to care for themselves throughout the program, especially while dealing with side effects from the harsh treatment regimen.
Among those side effects are oral health problems associated with radiation and chemotherapy that can have a negative impact on both bone and tooth health.
Unfortunately, those oral health problems have the potential to extend well beyond the mouth. For example, bad breath is often caused by too much bacteria left sitting in the mouth. In addition, as a result of cancer treatments, dry mouth may be a side effect. When you have dry mouth, it makes it difficult for saliva to wash away excess bacteria.
Too much bacteria in the mouth can also lead to tooth decay, gum disease, an increased risk of infection, and even pneumonia. The higher risk of infection combined with a lowered immune system is a dangerous mix for people undergoing cancer treatment.
For more serious oral health issues, wearing dentures may compound the problem.
It is possible for denture wearers to experience even more severe dental issues while they are enduring a cancer treatment program. In order to avoid problems with the mouth and teeth during treatment, it’s best to consult with a dentist who specializes in dental oncology.
Before discussing the limitations of dentures for cancer patients, it’s essential to know:
- the ramifications of oral health during treatment
- the dangers of poor oral health
- what can be done to preserve the health and vitality of the mouth, teeth, and gums.
Avoiding the negative side-effects that arise during a cancer treatment program, particularly as they relate to oral health and digestion, is crucial to the body’s comfort and overall health during the cancer treatment program.
Cancer and Oral Health
In addition to the variety of ways cancer can affect the body, specific cancer treatments can have unintended side effects that affect a sufferer’s mouth, teeth, gums, and salivary glands.
During treatment, mouth sores and excessive bleeding are common. This problem is mainly due to the way that cancer treatments attack the body at the cellular level. The chemotherapy and radiation can’t differentiate between good and malignant cells, causing healthy cells’ adverse reactions.
During treatment, the impact on health can vary by individual. However, the most commonly affected areas are the mouth, saliva, digestion, and hair cells.
For example, salivary glands serve crucial functions in digestion, oral health, and speech, so any negative impacts on the salivary glands could significantly impact overall oral health. Additionally, gum and tooth issues may cause speech, digestion, eating, and swallowing problems.
Other issues that may occur during cancer treatment may include:
- Oral Mucositis
- Excessive Soreness of gums
- Off-Colored Patches In Gums
- Hardened Gums
- Dry Mouth
- Consistent Bad Breath
- Change In Taste
- Bone Disease
- Difficulty Swallowing and Chewing
- Tooth Decay
The pain from oral mucositis, an inflammation of the mucus lining in the mouth, can cause severe discomfort and pain, which is especially problematic during cancer treatment … As if you need one more part of your body to hurt when you have cancer!!
So what do you need to look for before you experience serious oral health problems?
There are plenty of warning signs the body gives us. But, much like there are warnings before a heart attack, knowing the signs of potentially serious oral health problems is critical.
Gums: Bleeding gums is one of the more significant tell-tale signs that something is wrong. It could be caused by receding gums or too much bacteria in the mouth and gum lining.
Pain: Another tell-tale sign is pain or discomfort in and around the jaw. Persistent pain that continues for more than a day or two can signify something wrong, from infection to tooth decay.
Loose Teeth: Wiggly teeth are another issue, as permanent teeth should not be wiggly or loose. If you experience this, you need to get an examination as soon as possible because it may be a sign of excessive bacteria or even a weakening of the bones in the jaw or mouth.
Color: Discoloration or changes on the surface of the teeth can be a sign of acid reflux that leads to a deterioration in the enamel of the teeth. Discolored teeth can be a sign of severe damage and may signify that tooth decay has already begun. In addition, it may lead to a higher risk of severe illness and infection in cancer patients.
Bad Breath: Consistent, stinky breath is a sign that there are excessive amounts of bacteria in the mouth and may be caused by gingivitis, gum disease, tonsillitis, diabetes, and more. Bad breath is more than just an inconvenience. It can also be a predictor of potential significant future health issues, such as pneumonia and tooth decay.
Sores: Mouth sores can be caused by bacteria buildup in the mouth, usually from a prevalent food source, such as food remnants or sugars.
Gums and lining of the mouth can have open sores, become rigid, or be sensitive to touch. These symptoms can be an underlying issue that needs to be addressed with your dentist. Treating oral health under the guidance of a dentist is essential for both permanent oral health and the patient’s comfort during a cancer treatment regimen.
Eating and digestion are already potential issues during your treatment, and excessive oral problems can cause permanent damage to teeth and gums, requiring critical dental care. In addition, problems such as tooth decay, cavities, broken teeth, and gum disease may accelerate during key cancer treatments. The danger of poor oral health during cancer treatment is the increase of bacteria in the mouth.
On the one hand, bacteria in the mouth serve the vital function of aiding digestion.
On the other hand, too much bacteria in the mouth may cause inflammation and infection to spread, especially in compromised immune systems such as those of the people undergoing cancer treatment.
The risk of infection may rise dramatically during treatment due to compromised immune-system response. So for optimal health during cancer treatment, oral health must be as much of a priority as overall health.
The problem with tooth decay is that it can spread to the jaw bone, causing severe deterioration to the bone’s integrity. In addition, *radiation is known to cause and accelerate these oral health issues.
Our mouths need saliva to help wash away the bacteria and food particles. However, as a byproduct of radiation treatment, the amount and consistency of saliva may change, increasing the risk of cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease.
Preventing Oral Health Issues During Cancer Treatment
The key to preventing oral health issues during cancer treatment is to proactively take care of any potential issues before starting a cancer treatment regimen.
Daily flossing, brushing, and rinsing are still highly encouraged, even on days you don’t eat much. The reason for this is simple: food particles in the mouth can lead to excess bacteria growth that can have profound impacts on oral and physical health.
It’s recommended to consult with your dentist at least 4-weeks prior to undergoing any cancer treatment. Be sure to complete any examinations, dental procedures, cleanings, or other dental procedures before beginning your first treatment.
Additionally, getting any crowns, fillings, and root canals taken care of ahead of time is an absolute must. For individuals with braces and other orthodontics, most dentists will tell you to have those removed before beginning your first treatment, to alleviate sore gums and teeth during treatment.
As tooth decay and gum disease begin to take root, permanent solutions such as dental implants may need to be considered. However, there is hope after the ravages of cancer are finished tormenting your body.
Dental Implants Versus Dentures
To understand the difference between the benefits of implants versus dentures, it’s essential to know what dentures and implants are.
Dentures are artificial teeth and gums made from hard resin and stuck to the interior of your mouth with adhesives. These artificial teeth are molded to the specific contours of your mouth, but be warned—they may crack, chip, and break easily.
One more not-so-lovely feature is that dentures require that they be taken out of the mouth every single day, cleaned, stored in a container while you sleep, and finally returned to the mouth before the next day’s use.
Problems With Dentures
With dentures, the potential of long-term issues such as inflammation, irritation, and infection are possible. These issues have an association with oral cancers, and to avoid these issues, you need to consider alternatives to dentures.
If you need a little more convincing that dentures are NOT the best route, consider that they are an exterior construct in the mouth, meaning that they rest on the jawbone rather than affix into the bone. This simple fact means dentures can cause issues with the strength and integrity of the jaw.
The lack of pressure on the jaw can have long-term issues regarding the bone’s strength and may lead to chewing and eating issues down the road. Wanna know why? Because you no longer have teeth where the dentures sit. No teeth means no bone cell regeneration. And that means bone loss. Wherever you have dentures, bone loss will follow.
Dentures rarely remain snugly fitted to the gums. Loose-fitting dentures create space for food and other items to become lodged in the mouth, creating an environment for more significant bacterial growth.
A perfect storm is created that can allow too much bacteria to grow, which can cause irritation and even infection to spread. As we’ve said, for someone with a compromised immune system, eliminating any unnecessary risk of infection and other issues is crucial for overall health maintenance.
Another issue is that loose-fitting dentures can irritate and rub on the mouth and gums, causing sores and lesions to develop, making eating and chewing difficult. The last thing you want as a cancer patient is more difficulty!
This point is important for individuals going through a cancer treatment regimen that may already have issues with chewing and eating from the effects of their treatments.
Finally, the issue with dentures is that they wear down much easier than teeth and dental implants, requiring replacements up to every 5-years. So do you want to replace your smile every five years for the rest of your life?
Benefits Of Dental Implants
Dental implants are a permanent solution to tooth decay and loss instead of dentures. As such, they can be a better option for illness sufferers, especially for people going through a cancer treatment program.
Primarily, dental implants are a surgical component affixed into the jawbone to anchor a dental prosthesis like a crown, bridge, or another prosthesis.
The benefits of dental implants are that they operate similar to natural teeth, are easier to clean, are anchored into the jawbone, and fuse into the bone, strengthening the temporal and masseter muscles of the mandible, all while preventing bone loss.
The importance of the dental implant being anchored to the jaw helps maintain the bone’s strength and integrity, keeping the jaw healthy, allowing chewing and eating to remain the same as before any implant.
To Recap …
When an individual attempts to minimize any adverse effects from their cancer treatment, taking care of the body and mouth can be challenging, these challenges are especially true for dental and oral health issues before undergoing cancer treatment programs.
Combine these pre-existing issues with oral health and some of the effects of various cancer treatments, and oral health can suffer. Having too dry a mouth, inflammation, and even greater risk of infection makes dental oncology a must.
If an individual suffers from a pre-existing oral health issue before cancer treatment, those issues may worsen during the program. Therefore, we would like to suggest the safest, most reliable option may be to replace your teeth with Nuvia’s Dental Implants.
Remember, in the case of dentures. It’s a short-term solution that may have long-term adverse effects, whereas dental implants are a more permanent solution. However, due to the permanence and ease of cleaning, dental implants can be an excellent suggestion for individuals undergoing cancer treatments.
The anchoring to the bone maintains the integrity of the jaw, helping eliminate the painful loose-fitting dentures that are hard to clean and may cause further irritation in the mouth.
For those individuals in treatment, any opportunity to eliminate the risk of infection and discomfort is critical to the overall health and mental wellbeing of the challenges associated with cancer treatments.
Dealing with oral health is one thing. Dealing with oral health while undergoing a cancer treatment program is something else altogether. In order to be best equipped and educated on what issues may arise during treatment will require consulting with a dental oncologist specializing in oral health and cancer treatment is a crucial first step.
Nuvia Dental Implant Centers want to help you navigate the journey of replacing your teeth when you have cancer. When you have cancer you don’t need one more thing to cause you to worry. And that’s why we’re here.
Reach out to us! We will answer all of your questions and our team will walk you through the process.