A third of people treated for cancer develop adverse side effects within their mouth. But while these effects can be devastating to teeth and gums, there are ways to minimize the damage.
Treatments like chemotherapy and radiation work by destroying cancer cells. Unfortunately, they may also destroy normal cells. The accumulation of this “collateral damage” ultimately affects uninvolved areas and organ systems of the body. Chemotherapy, for example, can interrupt bone marrow blood cell formation and decrease the body's ability to fight infection.
These ripple effects can eventually reach the mouth. It's not uncommon for cancer patients to develop mouth sores or see an increase in tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease. The treatments may also inhibit saliva flow: because saliva neutralizes acid and provides other benefits that lower disease risk, dental disease is more likely to develop when the salivary flow is reduced.
The first step to minimizing these effects is to improve oral health before cancer treatment begins. An unhealthy mouth vastly increases the chances for problems during treatment. Cooperating with your cancer physicians, we should attempt to treat any diseases present as soon as possible.
During cancer treatment we should also monitor your oral health and intervene when appropriate. If at all possible, you should continue regular dental visits for cleaning and checkups, and more so if conditions warrant. We can also protect your teeth and gums with protective measures like antibacterial mouth rinses, saliva stimulation or high-potency fluoride applications for your enamel.
What's most important, though, is what you can do for yourself to care for your mouth during the treatment period. Be sure to brush daily with a soft-bristle brush and fluoride toothpaste. You can use a weak solution of one-quarter teaspoon each of salt and baking soda to a quart of warm water to rinse your mouth and soothe any sores. And be sure to drink plenty of water to reduce dry mouth.
While you're waging your battle against cancer, stay vigilant about your teeth and gums. Taking care of them will ensure that after you've won your war against this malignant foe your mouth will be healthy too.
If you would like more information on taking care of your teeth and gums during cancer treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Health During Cancer Treatment.”
Losing your teeth can be a traumatic experience with serious consequences for your overall health. Fortunately, you have great options for replacing lost teeth that can restore both appearance and dental function.
One such option is a fixed bridge supported by dental implants. While implants are best known for single tooth replacement, they can also be used with other restorations like bridges. In this case, the bridge is screwed into a few well-placed implants to support it.
Implants can provide bridges with more security and support, and without the need to alter adjacent teeth that are commonly used for traditional tooth replacement. They may also slow or stop bone loss because the titanium in implants naturally attracts bone cells that grow and adhere to its surface and provide stimulation to the bone cells during function.
Because of these benefits an implant-supported bridge could be a life-changer that provides years of satisfaction. But we can’t simply “set them and forget them”: They require dedicated oral hygiene just like natural teeth.
While the bridge materials and implants themselves are in no danger from disease, the same can’t be said for the implant’s supporting gums and bone. Dental plaque, the main driver in gum disease, can place these tissues at risk for infection that could eventually lead to implant failure.
It’s important, then, for you to floss around your new implants to remove any plaque. This differs from regular flossing in which you work the thread between teeth. Instead, you’ll have to maneuver the floss between the bridge and gums with the help of a floss threader, a small slender tool with a loop at one end and a stiffer plastic edge at the other (similar to a sewing needle).
To use it, first run 18” of floss through the loop until you get equal lengths and then work the tail of the floss threader between the bridge and gums while holding one end of the floss. Once through, you pull the floss threader through so that the floss is on either side of the bridge. Then grab each end of the floss and pull it snug to floss up and down one side of the implant. Go to the next side and repeat this procedure for all the implants.
As an alternative, you could use an oral irrigator, which emits a pulsating spray of water to loosen and wash away plaque. Either way, though, it’s important to floss around implants to get the most life out of your bridge.
If you would like more information on proper care for implant-supported restorations, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Hygiene for Fixed Bridgework.”
Nothing beats the form and function of a real tooth—but dental implants come pretty close. That's why they're tops among both dentists and patients for replacing missing teeth.
Much of an implant's functionality and durability can be credited to its material construction, from the titanium metal post imbedded in the jawbone to the lifelike porcelain crown attached at its other end. But an implant's “nuts and bolts” isn't the only reason why this premier dental restoration is so popular: A good portion of their success comes from the adjunct support provided by digital technology.
Without this varied array of computer-based applications used in planning, designing and installing them, implants couldn't produce the level of satisfactory outcomes they currently do. Here then are a few of the high-tech tools dentists use to make sure your implants result in a winning smile.
CBCT scanning. Implant placement requires a high degree of precision often complicated by various anatomical structures like nerves, blood vessels and sinuses within the gums and jaws. Cone Beam Computer Tomography (CBCT) scanners rotate around a patient's head, taking hundreds of digital x-ray images that are then assembled into a 3-D model image. Dentists can view this model from various angles to identify obstacles and better pinpoint the best implant locations.
Digital impressions. Dentists can also create a 3-D digital impression model of the inside of a patient's mouth that can give them views of their current teeth and gums from any angle. This aids in determining the size and type of implant so that it blends seamlessly with remaining teeth. A digital impression can also provide both the dentist and patient a preview appearance of their future smile after treatment.
3-D printed surgical guides. To accurately drill the implant site during surgery, dentists often create a custom-made device called a surgical guide that fits into the patient's mouth during the procedure. Using results from scanning and digital impressions, highly accurate guides can be created with a 3-D printer. This further ensures that the implant will be in the exact best location for the most attractive and functional outcome.
Implantology is as much art as it is science in achieving a beautiful smile. These and other digital tools help make that desirable end a reality.
If you would like more information on dental implants, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.
This year's Carol Burnett Award, presented at the Golden Globes, goes to Ellen DeGeneres for her “outstanding contributions to the television medium on or off the screen.” This is the latest in a long list of honors for the comedienne, talk show host and activist that includes Emmys, Grammys and Teen Choice Awards. And one not quite as well-known: a 2004 “Flossy” award.
DeGeneres received this honor from the National Flossing Council in recognition of her passionate promotion of oral hygiene, particularly flossing. She wrote about its virtues in her 2003 book, The Funny Thing Is…., saying, among other things, “Don't even think for a second that you can get away with not flossing.”
DeGeneres's motivational cheerleading for flossing is helpful and necessary because, well, many of us just don't like doing it. It requires more manual dexterity than its more popular sibling, brushing. And the tendency for the floss to gunk up with plaque residue for some is simply unpleasant.
Mainly, though, many folks think brushing is enough. Not so fast, according to dental professionals. While brushing removes disease-causing bacterial plaque from broad tooth surfaces, it can't effectively get into the spaces between teeth. It takes flossing to clear plaque from these more difficult areas.
But don't fret: There are ways to make flossing an easier—and more pleasant—task.
Ask us for help. As we said before, flossing does take some hand dexterity and coordination to perform. You may also wonder if you're doing it effectively. We can provide training and tips on how to be a more effective flosser at your next visit.
Practice, practice, practice. You probably think nothing of riding a bicycle, and yet it probably took you weeks or months as a kid to become proficient. Similarly, your first attempts at flossing might feel awkward, but you'll improve with practice, so don't give up.
Brush before you floss. Most people floss before brushing, but if you tend to encounter a lot of soft plaque debris that makes flossing “icky” for you, then try brushing first to clear a good portion of it out of the way before you floss. Just be aware, most professionals believe that flossing first is better because it loosens up debris between teeth so the bubbles from the toothpaste can carry it away. But any flossing is better than no flossing!
Try flossing tools. For some people, floss picks, small pre-threaded tools you can use with one hand, seem easier to maneuver than regular floss thread. If you have issues with manual dexterity, an oral irrigator can make the task easier: This handheld device uses a stream of pressurized water to loosen and flush away plaque between teeth.
So, follow Ellen DeGeneres's advice she gave Tulane University graduates during a commencement speech: “Remember to exfoliate, moisturize, exercise…and floss.” The latter, along with brushing, will certainly help keep your teeth and gums healthy.
The red, scaly rash suddenly appearing on your face doesn’t cause you much physical discomfort, but it’s still embarrassing. And to make matters worse treating it as you would other skin ailments seems to make it worse.
Your ailment might be a particular skin condition known as peri-oral dermatitis. Although its overall occurrence is fairly low (1% or less of the population worldwide) it seems to be more prevalent in industrialized countries like the United States, predominantly among women ages 20-45.
Peri-oral dermatitis can appear on the skin as a rash of small red bumps, pimples or blisters. You usually don’t feel anything but some patients can have occasional stinging, itching or burning sensations. It’s often misidentified as other types of skin rashes, which can be an issue when it comes to treatment.
Steroid-based ointments that work well with other skin ailments could have the opposite effect with peri-oral dermatitis. If you’re using that kind of cream out of your medicine cabinet, your rash may look better initially because the steroid constricts the tiny blood vessels in the skin. But the reduction in redness won’t last as the steroid tends to suppress the skin’s natural healing capacity with continued use.
The best treatment for peri-oral dermatitis is to first stop using any topical steroid ointments, including other-the-counter hydrocortisone, and any other medications, lotions or creams on it. Instead, wash your skin with a mild soap. Although the rash may flare up initially, it should begin to subside after a few days.
A physician can further treat it with antibiotic lotions typically containing Clindamycin or Metronidazole, or a non-prescription, anti-itch lotion for a less severe case. For many this clears up the condition long-term, but there’s always the possibility of relapse. A repeat of this treatment is usually effective.
Tell your dentist if you have recurring bouts of a rash that match these descriptions. More than likely you’ll be referred to a dermatologist for treatment. With the right attention—and avoiding the wrong treatment ointment—you’ll be able to say goodbye to this annoying and embarrassing rash.
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