Cancer battles are a fact of life for many patients. One unfortunate complication patients often deal with prior or during their treatments is related to their oral health. While on the surface, these problems may seem minor, they are quite serious and can negatively affect a person’s cancer treatment and quality of life. An example of a serious complication is Osteoradionecrosis and osteonecrosis which can be a result of an invasive dental procedure after radiation or chemotherapy treatment. In order to minimize the risk of such complications, it is important for patients to see a dental provider specializing in cancer patients. Dr. Johanna Yepez is a well-known Prosthodontist in Houston takes effective and preventive measures for patients who are undergoing treatment to keep their oral health maintained.
Dr. Yepez and her entire team at Pure Prosthodontics in Houston have special protocols in place for patients receiving cancer treatments. Maintaining oral health is as important to us as it is to our patients because if their immune systems become compromised, other physical complications could arise as a result. For this reason, we always check any oral conditions that are out of the ordinary, such as oral cancer, so that they can be detected and resolved quickly.
Oral Complications Associated With Cancer Treatment
Radiation treatment is a common procedure for a majority of cancer patients; however, there are some complications you should be aware of. If the treatment is being performed on a patient’s neck or head, their oral health could decline as well as their immune system, which can expose them to other oral issues like gum disease. Additional complications include the following:
- Nutritional issues (lack of appetite) which can affect a person’s entire body, including their mouth
- Fungal, bacterial, or viral infections as a result of chemotherapy or radiation treatment
- Dry mouth due to reduced saliva, which can increase a patient’s chances of having mouth sores or infections, dental decay, and difficulty talking, swallowing, and eating
Medically necessary oral care prior to, during, and after cancer treatment can reduce or prevent incidents related to oral complications, which can improve a patient’s survival odds and their overall quality of life. For instance, one such treatment we offer is aggressive fluoride treatments which can decrease the likelihood of getting any more cavities in the future.
The next few paragraphs will explain some of the other treatments and examinations Pure Prosthodontics offers for patients during every stage of cancer therapy.
Receiving Dental Treatment Prior to Receiving Cancer Therapy
Dr. Yepez is here to help any patient who may be undergoing cancer treatment in the immediate future. It’s paramount that your oral health is in good condition due to the unpleasant side effects you’ll have to endure during your cancer treatment. If you ignore your dental health, these side effects could become worse after you begin your treatment.
Dr. Yepez can give you a comprehensive oral exam prior to beginning your cancer treatment. This exam will identify any dental problems that need to be treated and can coordinate with you and your provider. Oral problems detected early on could be treated before you start your cancer treatment, which will strengthen your immune system and give your oral health a boost.
We will remove any broken or infected teeth, repair any large cavities that may be present, and treat gum disease with root planing and scaling (a deep cleaning).
Receiving Dental Treatment While Undergoing Cancer Therapy
If you are already undergoing cancer therapy, dental treatment could be necessary if it is warranted. Dr. Yepez will coordinate care with your oncology provider. If chemotherapy or radiation is being administered as part of your treatment, any necessary dental work will be synchronized by Dr. Yepez with regard to any invasive procedure, including oral surgery. If she recommends medications such as antibiotics, your oncologist will be notified before they are administered. Should your cancer treatment take precedence over your dental procedures, they may need to be postponed until your treatment is finished.
Receiving Dental Treatment after Cancer Therapy
Dr. Yepez will coordinate any dental care you may need with your oncology provider after you have completed your cancer treatment. She will also check on your hematologic status to ensure that it’s functioning normally along with other related conditions that could affect your dental treatment.
Oral cancer is a cancerous tissue that grows in a patient’s oral cavity. This is a cancer subtype of the head and neck that could show up as a lesion inside the oral tissues and metastasize from a nearby site or through an extension from an adjacent structure such as the nasal cavity. Oral cancer can also begin in tissues located inside of the mouth in various histologic forms.
Some oral cancers can involve a person’s palate, gums, tongue, cheek lining, or floor of the mouth.
Detecting Cancer Early
It’s important that oral cancer be detected early in order to receive immediate treatment. Studies have shown that the 5-year survival rate for a localized disease is 81% which is much higher than the 30% survival rate for cancers that have affected other areas of the body.
Early warning signs are easy to spot and see, like tissue changes inside of the mouth.
Oral Cancer: Early Warning Signs
Some early warning signs include white or red lesions in the mouth. White lesions, otherwise known as leukoplakia, are the most common over red lesions (erythroplakia). However, lesions with erythroplakic components can be cause for concern because they are more likely to be cancerous in nature.
If you have red or white lesions that do not heal in several weeks, you should schedule a visit with Dr. Yepez for a reevaluation and biopsy to see if they could be cancerous.
Other potential symptoms and signs of oral cancer could be a lump or thickening of the soft tissues in the oral cavity, difficulty chewing or swallowing, soreness, sensations of something being caught in the throat, hoarseness, ear pain, difficulty moving the jaw or tongue, and swelling or numbness of the tongue or other areas of the mouth.
Some risk factors for oral cancer include denture irritation, GVHD (Graft-versus-host-disease), Lichen planus, suppression of the immune system, HPV infection, alcohol or tobacco use, genetics, UV light, and age.
If these problems persist for more than two weeks, you should schedule an appointment with us for a comprehensive clinical exam and laboratory tests for a more conclusive diagnosis. We offer a pre-treatment evaluation that examines the gums, teeth, and other tissues inside your mouth. We also take x-rays which can detect infections or other oral issues.
Effective, Compassionate Dental Care
Dr. Yepez will allay all of your fears about dental care, as she and team members take excellent care of all of their patients, including cancer patients. Along with the treatments she can perform, our patients are instructed in the various procedures they’ll need to use at home to keep their oral health in check.
Our dental team is not only professional, but compassionate, and we offer a soothing, calm environment for our patients at Pure Prosthodontics. The treatment you will experience from us is gentle and comforting. We realize these factors are important in terms of building a mindful and healthy defense against the troublesome side effects of cancer therapy. This is one of many reasons why Dr. Johanna Yepez is one of the best dentists for cancer patients. We’ll make sure you are in good hands at Pure Prosthodontics.
Schedule an Appointment Today
If you or someone you love is undergoing cancer treatment or is recovering from the disease, you should schedule an appointment with Dr. Yepez at Pure Prosthodontics as soon as possible. She will provide you with the appropriate prevention measures to avoid any severe complications you might have with your cancer treatment and offer dental treatment if necessary.
During her training Dr. Yepez had the opportunity to advance her knowledge in oral oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center. During her years of private practice Dr. Yepez has been working closely with the oncology teams to provide the best care to their patients. Her years of experience have given her a unique prospective on the special needs of oral cancer patients. Dr. Yepez offers personalized protocols for patients who are in the process of starting cancer treatment. Her protocol includes priority initial exam, multidisciplinary approach with other dental specialists if necessary, and close communication.