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Dental Oncology 101: The Oral Health Experts On Your Cancer Treatment Team

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Did you know that cancer treatments can affect oral health? Dental oncologists are specialized medical professionals who help patients with their oral health during treatment. Learn more about dental oncology, their role in the treatment journey, and how they help patients through various oral side effects.

What Is a Dental Oncologist?

Oncology is the specialty of medicine that focuses on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. Most cancer patients will experience oral side effects; this is why a dental oncologist is part of the health care team responsible for treating cancer patients. These trained professionals monitor and treat any oral issues during the treatment. Unlike oncology, this branch of medicine assists with the oral effects of chemotherapy and radiation.

Oral Side Effects of Cancer Treatment

How do cancer treatments affect the mouth? Oral side effects can occur during the treatment of various types of cancer. The National Institute of Dental Craniofacial Research has reported that patients with cancerous cells in the head and neck area are more likely to experience oral side effects. During chemotherapy and radiation, the fast-growing cancer cells are killed and stopped from growing. Unfortunately, healthy, fast-growing cells in the mouth are affected too. This change in cell growth can cause adverse reactions in the mouth, such as:

Fortunately, your dental oncology team can treat these oral side effects. Remember to consult with a specialist to find the best solution for you during your treatment journey.

When to Meet With Your Dental Oncologist

Taking care of your oral health while undergoing cancer treatment is essential. Preventing and treating oral side effects can improve overall comfortability throughout the process. You should consult with a dental oncologist:

Before: Speak with a dental team before beginning your oncology treatment. An initial consultation will help detect any oral issues and infections, such as cavities or gum disease. Your dental professionals will teach you how to manage your oral health during your cancer journey and prevent problems from occurring.

During: Your dental oncologist will help alleviate and ease any oral side effects resulting from your treatment.

After: Regularly visit the dentist and dental hygienist to maintain good oral health.

Cancer is a long journey of treatment and recovery. However, the oral side effects that come with this process are manageable. A dental oncologist helps take care of any oral issues that may arise, improving your or your loved one's comfortability. Remember to speak to your doctor and dentist if you or someone you care for are about to start their treatment process. Good oral hygiene is essential too, so remember to brush twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush, rinse with an antiseptic mouthrinse, and clean between your teeth with interdental brushes, floss, or water flossers daily.


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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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