308 Golden Gate Ave.
Belvedere, CA 94920
81 Casa Buena Dr, Suite 6
Corte Madera, CA 94925
485 34th Street
Oakland, CA 94609
Dr. Charlene A. Hudson D.D.S.
29 29th St.
San Francisco, CA, 94110
Weller, Paul J D.D.S.
2301 Vicente St
San Francisco, CA, 94116-2832
Dr.George Markle D.D.S.
450 Sutter St Rm 1919
San Francisco, CA, 94108
Dan Simon Dental Corp
595 Buckingham Way
San Francisco, CA, 94132-1909
Each year, many people are treated for oral cancer. Chemotherapy treatments for cancer and radiation treatment for head and neck cancer often cause oral complications. About half of chemotherapy patients experience oral complications, particularly those being treated for leukemia and those who receive bone marrow transplants.
These oral cancer complications significantly decrease quality of life and can lead to serious systemic problems, complications, septicemia, eating difficulty, nutritional deficiencies, and dehydration. The following are descriptions of oral problems that can occur with cancer treatment:
Infections of the oral cavity can be caused by the usual organisms found in the mouth or by opportunistic organisms not usually found in the mouth. These infections can lead to serious systemic infections. The risk is higher for individuals who have reduced numbers of circulating white blood cells (leukopenia).
Candidiasis is the overgrowth of candida albicans, a fungal organism that normally is found in the mouth.
Musositis is painful and causes problems with eating and speaking. Soft tissues are red, ulcerated, and inflamed. The oral cavity is susceptible to mucositis because of its high cell turnover.
Hemorrhage or bleeding of the oral cavity can occur when clotting factors are affected and during bone marrow suppression.
Xerostomia or dry mouth is associated with decreased, sticky, or thickened saliva. Dry soft tissues are more susceptible to pain, infection, and irritation. Dry mouth is associated with a high number of dental caries.
Altered taste or loss of taste is common and is related to the reduced saliva volume, as well as its altered consistency.
Developmental abnormalities such as altered craniofacial growth and dental/tooth deformities occur with cancer treatment during developmental periods.
Trismus, fibrosis, and scarring of the chewing muscles and temporomandibular joint (TMJ, the joint that moves the lower jaw) that were in the radiation field may make opening the mouth difficult and limited.
Osteoradionecrosis (soft tissue and bone necrosis) can be spontaneous or secondary to trauma, extractions, or dental prostheses. The radiated tissues have reduced blood vessels, decreased cells, and decreased oxygen that predisposes the tissues for years after the radiation therapy to this compromised state that makes oral surgical procedures risky. Therefore, prior to and post oral surgery, patients who have had head and neck radiation may require hyperbaric oxygen treatments and antibiotic therapy to prevent osteoradionecrosis.
Radiation dental caries is a term used for rapid tooth demineralization and severe cavities that occur with head and neck radiation, particularly when the parotid, submandibular, submental, or submaxillary salivary glands are in the radiation field.
Pain accompanies oral infection, mucositis, xerostomia, trismus, dental caries, osteoradionecrosis, candidiasis and dental caries.
To reduce risk for oral cancer complications, a dentist should perform a pretreatment oral examination, as well as necessary dental treatment before initiating chemotherapy or head and neck radiation. It is important that the dentist consult with the physician or oncologist before dental treatment because people who are about to undergo treatments for cancer may be immunosuppressed or thrombocytopenic (blood clotting disorder).
The goals of the dental examination and dental treatment are to eliminate existing or potential oral infection and potential for trauma. Infection, potential infection, and trauma can be associated with soft tissue lesions, decayed or broken teeth, dental implants with poor prognosis, periodontal disease, and poorly fitting full or partial dentures. The oral examination consists of hard and soft tissue examinations, periodontal assessment, and necessary radiographs. Since long-term effects of head and neck cancer radiation treatments will be harmful to the bone in the radiated area (field), patients who undergo head and neck radiation treatment should have teeth and implants with potential for future problems considered for extraction before the cancer treatment begins.
The patient's ability and interest in maintaining oral health, as well as the ability to comply with an oral cancer prevention routine, should be factors that are considered as the dentist develops and discusses dental treatment recommendations with the patient.
By Denise J. Fedele, DMD, MS
The proverbial way of referring to older people as being "long on the tooth" suggests that it is predetermined that as we get older our teeth get "longer" or "no longer." This is not true.
Periodontal disease, plaque and loss of teeth is not an inevitable aspect of aging. Loss of attachment or bone support around a tooth is the result of a bacterial infection. What is true is that as we get older, we have more exposures to these infectious organisms, and more probability of being infected and developing periodontal disease. Half of the people over 55 have periodontal disease.
Risk factors that make older adults more susceptible to periodontal disease include:
Systemic diseases: Certain systemic diseases such as diabetes may decrease the body's ability to fight infection and can result in more severe periodontal disease. Osteoporosis also can increase the amount and rate of bone loss around teeth. Systemic illnesses will affect periodontal disease if it is a pre-existing condition. To reduce the effects of systemic diseases on the oral cavity, maintain meticulous plaque control and visit your dental care provider routinely for examinations and professional cleanings.
Medications: Heart medications can have a direct effect on the gums by creating an exaggerated response to plaque and resulting in gum overgrowth. Antidepressants may create dry mouth and reduce the saliva's ability to neutralize plaque.
Immunosuppressants and other disease-fighting medications may reduce the body's ability to combat infection, increasing the risk for periodontal disease. The dental care provider needs to be aware of any medications you may be taking and you need to maintain meticulous plaque control and visit your dental care provider routinely for examinations and professional cleanings.
Dry mouth: Lack of saliva can result from the use of certain medications or as a result of illness. If there is not enough saliva available to neutralize plaque it can result in more cavities and periodontal disease.
Also, dry mouth, or xerostomia, can make dentures more difficult to wear and may also complicate eating, speaking, or swallowing of food. Oral rinses or artificial saliva can be very helpful with these problems.
Frequent sips of water or eating candy may be helpful as long as it doesn't contain sugar. Fluoride rinses and gels are helpful in reducing or preventing the cavities that can be caused by having a dry mouth.
Dexterity problems: Physical disabilities can reduce dexterity and the ability to remove plaque on a daily basis. Poor oral hygiene can increase the risk for cavities and periodontal disease.
Electric toothbrushes and floss holders are helpful in improving plaque control. Frequent professional cleanings combined with oral anti-microbial or fluoride rinses also may be helpful in reducing the incidence of cavities and periodontal disease.
Estrogen deficiency: Older women may have some special concerns in relation to periodontal disease. Scientific studies have suggested that the estrogen deficiency that occurs after menopause may increase the risk for severe periodontal disease and tooth loss. Estrogen replacement therapy may reverse these effects.
It is important to keep teeth as we age because every tooth has an important function in chewing and speaking. They affect our appearance and self esteem.
Having dentures or loose or missing teeth can restrict our diets, resulting in poor nutrition and systemic complications. With the advances in modern dentistry and with current prevention and treatment techniques, we must count on keeping our teeth for a lifetime -- no matter how "long" that may be!