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Taking care of your teeth and gums is important for everyone. But it is even more important for survivors of childhood cancer who received certain types of cancer treatment that raise risk for dental problems.
If you received the following cancer treatments you are at risk for dental problems:
Dental problems vary based on the type of treatment that you received.
Chemotherapy or Bone Marrow/Stem Cell Transplant
Problems that can occur due to chemotherapy or a bone marrow or stem cell transplant include:
Radiation to the Mouth, Salivary Glands, or Both
Problems that can occur due to radiation to the mouth, salivary glands, or both include all of the problems listed above plus these:
Take good care of your teeth and gums, and see your dentist routinely to prevent cavities and gum disease. Follow these recommendations, unless your dentist tells you otherwise.
Treatment options for dental problems vary. If your permanent teeth do not develop normally, you may need caps or crowns to improve their function and your smile. Sometimes surgery is needed to correct poor bone growth of the face or jaw. Stretching exercises for the jaw may help you to open your mouth more fully. Bonding may help improve crooked or small teeth. If you need braces, your dentist will take a panorex x-ray to see if the teeth, roots, and supporting bone are strong enough. If you had high-dose radiation to the face or mouth your dentist will review your potential for bone healing problems (osteoradionecrosis) following dental surgery. If you had a bone marrow or stem cell transplant from a donor other than yourself, your dentist will check for changes that indicate chronic graft-versus-host disease.
Drinking liquids often and using artificial saliva can help relieve symptoms of dry mouth.
Give your dentist a summary of your cancer treatment to make sure that he or she knows your health history and the cancer treatments that you received.
Also, be sure to let your dentist know if you have had the following health conditions or procedures:
In any of these situations, bacteria that normally enter the bloodstream during dental work may increase risk for serious infections. Ask your dentist if you need to take antibiotics before dental work to help prevent a possible infection. See related Health Links: “Splenic Precautions,” “Limb Salvage after Bone Cancer,” and “Heart Health after Childhood Cancer.”
For more information on dental health after childhood cancer visit the American Dental Association’s website at www.ada.org. Click on “Healthy Mouth” then “Oral Health Topics.”
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