You're probably aware of some of the adverse side effects of treatment for cancer. Unfortunately, one of these side effects is the health of your mouth. In fact, more than one third of people treated for cancer develop oral side effects.
Cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, attack cancer cells, but normal cells are also affected. Chemotherapy can affect the lining tissues of the mouth and the salivary glands, and radiation treatment can affect all tissues in its path, which will put you at higher risk for dental diseases, such as tooth decay and gum disease. You may also develop painful mouth sores as well as dry mouth.
The best approach to take when it comes to protecting yourself from these potential side effects is prevention. Here are a few steps you can take to defend yourself:
- Get a Comprehensive Dental Examination. While in the planning stages for your cancer treatment, you should schedule an appointment with our office for a complete dental exam. We will ensure that you oral health is optimal before you undergo treatment. We will also provide detailed instructions on how to care for your teeth during treatment and how to recognize the problem signs. Some solutions we may recommend are a fluoride treatment or antibacterial rinse.
- Keep up with your Oral Hygiene Routine. While cancer treatment may cause you to feel fatigued, it will be more important than ever for you to take good care of your teeth. Remember to brush twice daily with a soft brush and fluoride toothpaste. You should also floss once a day to clean between your teeth.
- Keep your Mouth Moist. Dry mouth is a common side effect of radiation and chemotherapy, and along with dry mouth comes a higher risk for tooth decay. We may recommend salivary stimulating medications to fight against this condition. You should also avoid mouth rinses with alcohol, which tend to further dry out your mouth. Make sure to drink plenty of water and consider chewing gum with xylitol, which promotes salivation and actively prevents tooth decay.
- Remain Alert. Throughout treatment, you should continue to look for signs of oral discomfort in the teeth, jaws and lining of your mouth. Notify both your oncologist and our office if you experience any side effects involving your mouth.
If you would like more information about oral health and cancer treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Health During Cancer Treatment.”
Throughout your child's lifetime, you will experience many important milestones together, some more pleasant than others. Teething is one of those notable milestones, and unfortunately, this “rite of passage” may cause your baby to feel uncomfortable at times.
Teething describes the tooth eruption process by which baby teeth emerge through the gums and into the mouth. It usually begins when your baby is between six and nine months, but may start as early as three months or as late as twelve months. Most children will have all 20 baby teeth by agree three, with the lower front teeth erupting first, followed by the two upper front teeth and then the molars.
Every baby will experience teething differently, but the following symptoms are very common:
- Biting and gnawing
- Gum swelling
- Chin rash
- Disrupted sleeping patterns
- Ear rubbing
- Decreased appetite
Many babies make it through the teething phase without much discomfort, but sometimes the pain can be substantial. If your baby is lucky enough to experience no discomfort, he or she will likely demonstrate some of the classic symptoms of teething, such as swollen gums and drooling. You may also notice that he or she will bite or chew anything and will wake up frequently during the night. These symptoms occur most often the week the teeth actually break through the gums, beginning four days before the eruption and lasting about three days after.
Here are a few suggestions to help reduce your baby's discomfort during teething:
- Teething rings: The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that parents use a clean, chilled, rubber teething ring or cold wet washcloth.
- Chilled pacifiers: Be careful not to freeze teething rings or pacifiers, as ice can burn if left in place too long.
- Gum massage: Massaging inflamed gums with your clean finger may be helpful to reduce the pressure.
- Over-the-counter medicine: If pain continues, you can give your baby acetaminophen or ibuprofen, but check with a pediatrician or pharmacist for the correct dosage. The medicine should be swallowed and not massaged into the sore areas, as this, too, can burn.
Other unpleasant side-effects of teething include diarrhea, rashes and fever. Though many have reported these symptoms to be normal, if your infant has fever or diarrhea during teething or continues to experience pain, you should schedule an appointment with our office. We'll examine your baby to ensure that the discomfort is related to teething and not something more serious.
You may get a laugh out of jokes about snoring, but in fact snoring and “Sleep Apnea” (“a” – without; “pnea” – breath) is no laughing matter. Nights of chronically disturbed sleep results in accidents, lost productivity and even depression, as well as problems at work and with relationships. Chronic snoring as a result of sleep apnea, results in sleep deprivation and health problems such as high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, heart attacks, brain damage and strokes.
What causes snoring?
Snoring results when soft tissue structures block the airway (windpipe) in the back of the throat. These structures include tonsils, soft palate, the uvula (the little punch-bag shaped structure at the back of the throat), and fat deposits. As you relax in sleep these tissues collapse onto themselves and the tongue drops back, causing a blockage in the air passage to the lungs. These obstacles to airflow create the familiar sound that we know as snoring.
What is Sleep Apnea?
When the obstruction is severe, it can block airflow completely. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) occurs when your upper airway is so seriously obstructed that there is significant loss of airflow, or even a complete arrest of breathing for 10 seconds or more. Reduced airflow into the lungs causes low levels of oxygen in the blood reaching the brain. Your brain, saving itself from suffocation, wakes you briefly out of deep sleep, followed by a loud gasp as the flow of air starts again. This can happen more than 50 times an hour. Low oxygen levels and fragmented sleep cause most of the dangers of sleep apnea.
What can be done to combat sleep apnea?
Medical and dental treatment includes:
- Staying physically healthy: Being overweight contributes to OSA, so start by losing weight and exercising.
- Oral Appliance Therapy: Specially designed (retainer-like) appliances are designed to maintain an open, unobstructed, upper airway during sleep.
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP): CPAP bedside machines send pressurized air through a tube connected to a mask (covering the nose and sometimes mouth), keeping your airway open.
How can we help you combat your snoring and sleep apnea?
The first step is assessment and diagnosis. Dentists, specially trained in sleep medicine, are in a unique position to help diagnose and help treat snoring and sleep apnea as part of a medical team. Contact us today to schedule an appointment if you think you have a problem with snoring and OSA — or if your spouse thinks you do. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Snoring and Sleep Apnea.”
Clothing and hair styles may come and go, but a dazzling smile is always in fashion! If you're considering options for perking up your appearance, brightening your pearly whites is a quick and affordable way to achieve eye-catching results.
You have several choices when it comes to teeth whitening. But to get the safest, most appropriate, and most satisfying results, you should start with a proper dental examination. A professional assessment of your oral health can determine the cause of your tooth discoloration and may reveal the need for a particular treatment before, or in addition to brightening the color of your teeth.
When we talk about teeth whitening, we generally are referring to “bleaching,” which actually returns your teeth to their natural tooth color. A thorough cleaning — generally part of a routine checkup — often can remove surface discoloration/staining (such as coffee, tea, tobacco or red wine).
There are basically three approaches for external bleaching/whitening of your teeth. They vary based on the strength of the bleaching solution, method of application, duration of treatment, and cost considerations.
Professional In-Office Whitening. This approach involves the carefully controlled application by a dental professional of a powerful and fast-acting concentration of hydrogen peroxide gel. Professional whitening can achieve the most significant color change in the shortest amount of time, but it is pricier than the other options.
Professionally Dispensed Take-Home Whitening Kits. These include a lower-strength peroxide gel applied via flexible plastic bleaching trays custom made by our office specifically for your teeth. The tailored fit of the trays helps ensure an even and thorough coating. A more affordable option than the in-office procedure, it also requires more time to achieve similar results.
Over-the-Counter Products. These feature the lowest-concentration bleaching gel, which is applied to the teeth using one-size-fits-all trays or strips, or a paint-on applicator. While they are the least expensive option, they take the longest to achieve maximum results and may not reach all teeth.
If you have questions about teeth whitening, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Teeth Whitening” and “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered.”
It's 3:00 PM, your child has just come back from the school playground — and she's complaining of a toothache that's making her miserable. She can't seem to say if there was a particular injury or a blow, but the more she talks about it, the worse it gets. You're the parent... what are you going to do now?
If you've ever been through this type of situation, you know that a calm demeanor and a little TLC can go a long way. But how do you know whether you're facing a dental emergency, or a routine booboo? Here are a few general rules that may help.
First, relax: Without a fever and facial swelling, a child's toothache isn't usually an emergency. But any tooth pain that keeps a child up at night or lasts into the next day should be evaluated by a dentist. Even if it's nothing but a small cavity (the most common cause of toothache) you don't want to let it go untreated. That could allow it to turn from a small discomfort into a major problem — like a painful abscess.
There are some things you can do at home to try and get a handle on what's causing the pain. Encourage the child to show you exactly where the pain is located, and to tell you when and how it started. Then, examine the area closely. Look for obvious brown spots, or even tiny cavities (holes) on biting surfaces or between teeth, which might indicate decay. Also check the gums surrounding the tooth, to see if there are sores or swelling.
You may find evidence of a traumatic injury, like a cut or bruise — or, if only swelling is apparent, it may mean an abscess has formed. If nothing looks amiss, try gently flossing on either side of the hurting tooth. This may dislodge a particle of food that's causing pain and pressure.
If the pain persists, you can try giving an appropriate dose of ibuprofen or acetaminophen, or applying an ice pack on the outside of the jaw — one minute on and one minute off. But even if you can make the immediate pain go away, don't neglect the situation that caused it. Unless you're absolutely sure you know why the toothache occurred, you should bring the child in for an examination. It will put your mind at rest — and maybe prevent a bigger problem down the road.
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