Dental and oral health includes the well-being of the entire mouth, including the teeth, gums, lining of the mouth (mucosa), and salivary glands (the glands that produce saliva). Various cancer treatments may affect your child’s dental and/or oral health.
Dental and oral side effects may make it difficult for your child to eat, chew, talk, or swallow.
Although most of us only know about dentists and oral hygienists, there are also various other dental health professionals who can help with your child’s oral care before, during, and after cancer treatment, including:
- Oral Oncologist: A dentist who specializes in the dental and oral health of people with cancer
- Oral Surgeon: A dentist who specializes in surgery of the mouth and jaw
- Periodontist: A dentist who specializes in diagnosing and treating gum disease
- Prosthodontist: A dentist who specializes in replacing teeth or other structures in the mouth
There are various side-effects caused by cancer treatment that can affect the mouth, including:
- Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)
- Mouth Sores (Mucositis)
- Tooth Decay
- Difficulty Swallowing (Dysphagia)
- Difficulty Chewing or Opening the Mouth
- Bone Disease
- Inflammation or Pain in the Lining of the Mouth and Tongue
Some of the side effects may disappear once the treatment is finished, while others may be long-lasting or even permanent.
It is important that you make an appointment with your child’s dentist at least four weeks before they are to start any cancer treatment.
If your child needs to have a dental procedure, such as the removal of a tooth, ask your dentist how soon after the procedure they can start cancer treatment. Many oral oncologists recommend allowing at least two weeks for healing between dental surgery and the start of cancer treatment.
Read more about the Effects, Signs and Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment and more regarding Dental and Oral Health on our static page, Dental and Oral Health in Childhood Cancer