Rhode Island Monthly Breast Health 2014 : Page 5

SPECIAL ADVER TISING SECTION Keep Smiling Maintaining oral health during cancer treatment. By Carol Ann Donnelly ith so many other things to think about, the last thing a newly diagnosed cancer patient wants to add to her long pre-treatment to-do list is a visit to her dentist. Yet taking preventive measures before cancer treatments begin may help thwart related dental prob-lems down the road. “Chemotherapy and radiation will not directly cause dental problems like tooth decay, but the side effects can,” says Kathi Duffy-Thorpe, an associate pro-fessor and dental hygienist. Excessive vomiting, chronic dry mouth and chemo-induced mouth ulcers can adversely af-fect a person’s oral care, which can lead to tooth decay. One would think regular teeth clean-Berkys I. Alvarez. ings and checkups while in treat-ment would improve a cancer their teeth, but this action is actu-patient’s oral health, but on-ally more detrimental to teeth. The cologists advise against this. The better option is to rinse with a bak-reason is cancer patients going ing soda and water solution, wait will not directly cause through treatments are more thirty minutes and then brush. susceptible to infection and the Patients who suffer from chron-dental problems like tooth decay, human mouth is full of bacteria. ic dry mouth are also prone to Teeth cleaning can introduce tooth decay. Saliva washes away but the side effects can. bacteria into the blood stream, plaque acids and a lack of saliva —Kathi Duffy-Thorpe which is not a problem for in the mouth means those acids healthy people, but cancer pa-can eat away at teeth. There are tients can suffer from transient rinses that can be purchased at bacteremia, a serious illness that the drug store or prescribed by a can be fatal. dentist to eradicate the problem. Another effective way Duffy-Thorpe suggests seeing your dentist before treat-to activate the salivary glands is to chew gum with xylitol, ments begin, and if you don’t have a relationship with an artifi cial sweetener that studies have shown actively a dentist, she suggests calling the CCRI Dental Hygiene reduces cavities and is helpful to the re-mineralization of Clinic at the Flanagan Campus in Lincoln. tooth enamel. Painful mouth ulcers caused by some “Nothing is going to be more important than a good chemotherapy can keep patients from brushing their home care regimen,” says Dr. Kerri-Rae Agin. teeth, as well as eating and drinking. “It’s a vicious cycle,” Maintaining good oral health during cancer treatments says Agin. isn’t always easy, but there are products that can help. She prescribes her patients a special rinse with three For instance, dentists can prescribe a toothpaste and active ingredients: a numbing agent, an anti-infl amma-rinse that contain four to fi ve times more fl uoride than tory and a coating agent. She also advises her patients over-the-counter equivalents. Fluoride is vital to keep to avoid acidic foods and drinks. teeth strong and prevent dental decay. Strong teeth are Visiting the dentist prior to starting cancer treatments better able to withstand the side effects of cancer treat-is one more appointment in an endless stream of med-ments, like vomiting, which can wreak havoc on tooth ical engagements, but it will help set the foundation for enamel and ultimately cause tooth decay. Of course, maintaining good oral hygiene and help reduce the the fi rst thing people want to do after being ill is brush risk of future dental problems.  Photo by 64 Degrees Photography W “Chemotherapy and radiation ” 110 RHODE ISLAND MONTHLY l OCTOBER 2014

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