What Does Dental Care Have To Do With Cancer?

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About 2 weeks ago I went to my dentist and found out that - right then and NOT tomorrow - I was going to get a temporary crown on my tooth. Now you have to understand I am not severely phobic of dentists, but I can think of lots of other things to do. Today I was to go back and finish the work. - Lucky for me I had the date wrong (so pray for me on Thursday).

The reason I mention all this is it is CRUCIAL--not just nice--BUT ESSENTIAL for cancer patients/survivors to get regular and thorough care. Most oncologists will require you to have a dental check-up before you start any chemotherapy or radiation. If the doctor does not mention it, then you should ask and make the appointment yourself. It may sound silly, but for those of you who have had a toothache you know you can get an infection in your mouth. There are many different types of "bugs" in your mouth. As you already know your white blood cell count (WBC) decreases after chemotherapy or radiation and this makes you prone to infections. Once your WBCs are low, they cannot fight infection. The state of your teeth, gums, tongue, and lips are important during your cancer journey. Once the treatment is over you may want to have your teeth checked every 6 months.

In addition to having a thorough dental check up before you start treatment, the physicians and nurses may ask you to follow a very specific routine to clean your mouth and teeth. Again, it may seem silly to do this routine 4 or more times per day, but it can prevent you from obtaining a lethal infection in your mouth. Research has shown that it is important for the nurses to assess your mouth several times a day and for you to follow the oral care routine they give you.
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About the Author


BA, MPH

Steve shares what he learned from his personal experience with cancer.

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