By Dr. Max Zaslavsky
Ok I copied that from Fran Drescher’s book. But you know my mom was a big Nanny fan, and I was tortured as a kid to having to watch it with the folks. Even worse to admit; at one time I knew all the lyrics to the theme song. Nightmares of her laugh were recurrent, but the book title is important for the sake of this topic.
In the last 3 weeks I have seen 3 patients who have either had radiation to the face or will be going for treatment in the coming weeks. The specifics of smoking, lifestyle habits etc. obviously have some impact on why they got cancer. We are all predisposed for something, and if we neglect ourselves, these erratic mutations will become life threatening. The thing that stinks even more is sometimes you don’t even have to neglect yourself, life just happens. My dad died of cancer. He never smoked a day in his life, but succumbed to cancer of the stomach and esophagus.
My advice as follows is for people who already have cancer and how we can treat them, especially when they will be getting radiation to the head and neck. First and foremost, GET ALL DENTAL TREATMENT DONE BEFORE YOU GET RADIATION. Yes that’s in caps for a reason. Your healing will be slower if you begin to get radiation and then need a tooth to be pulled. Slower healing = more painful healing. All necessary extractions, whether it’s wisdom teeth or removal due to infection, should be done prior to any radiation treatment. If a tooth needs to be removed during or after radiation treatment, you run the risk of a condition called osteoradionecrosis. Not to go into too much detail, but the jawbone can actually dissolve, become infectious, or even break if osteradionecrosis incurs. Do you want to be that person who ignored my advice and lands up needing to be admitted into the hospital for a dental infection? Pre-planning is a must in order to prevent such a debilitating disease.
Once you undergo radiation, your salivary glands will become decimated. Since saliva is a buffer that helps prevent dental decay, you will become more prone to getting cavities. These cavities can grow exponentially in as little as six months in the absence of saliva. Talk with your doctor about your options. In my office I suggest a cocktail of various gels, pastes and rinses that will help prevent decay and tooth loss. We use a combination of a saliva substitute (i.e. Biotene) in conjunction with a prescription fluoride toothpaste (Prevident, Prodentec), and a calcium/phosphorus paste (MI Paste).
I also endorse a very simple rinse to endorse a stable oral environment in the mouth. It’s as simple as going to your local dollar store. The rinse can be made simply by combining baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. Yes, it tastes like crap, but the baking soda is neutral and will help create a more neutral environment in your mouth.
So look into these options. If you have cancer, I am sure you have a lot going on right now. But as the saying goes, never give up the ship. Fight the good fight. No success in life was ever accomplished by giving up in life, and I hope you have a good support group around you. I know we were there for my dad when he was ill. And when you need help for your mouth, and living better by just being able to eat and swallow, contact us! We are here for you!
If you have any questions or comments please leave them in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you.