From a Dentist who survived cancer…

Being a cancer survivor, I have experienced extreme changes, and it will not be wrong to say that my entire world turned upside down. All those exceptions now became the norm, and the routine I so long followed became the exception. Since childhood, as a normal part of life, I have been visiting the dentist once in 6 months and brushed my teeth twice everyday. But now things changed. Ever since I was diagnosed of breast cancer, and the chemotherapy started, there was fear, I was depressed, sick, and every routines I had been following changed.

The Dental Checkup and Caner

Before the chemotherapy regimen began, I was asked to visit the dentist once in 1 or 2 months and not the usual once in 6 months. I now began feeling the same fear that I would while visiting the dentist as a child. However, my mouth sores, higher chances of decay, and the requirement of a special mouthwash, are few reasons why I had to follow this new routine.

The Cancer Patients and Their Dentists

The dental clinicians do everything to ensure that their patients move through this phase with as little trouble, and thus they give more detailed instructions. But, the patients, at this stage, are already receiving many instructions from nutritionists, oncologists, and doctors. Yet, managing and preventing oral complications that cancer and cancer therapy can lead to is absolutely essential.

Though patients are told about all those complications, they hardly know how extensive they can actually be. Lack of saliva, very thick saliva, mucositis, candidiasis, soft tissue necrosis, and osteonecrosis are amongst some of the complications that are commonly noticed.

However, the impact on the mouth and teeth are secondary, and does not seem as important to the patients as does to the doctor. So, to become a crucial part of the overall cancer treatment plan, the doctor needs to keep things as simple as possible. The patient just needs to learn about the risks she or he is carrying. Excessive information will only lead to emotional overload and may even cause rebellion.

Oral Hygiene Plan for Cancer Patients

Oral hygiene plan needs to be individualized for each patient, and modified when needed through the course of the treatment. Though everyone knows how to brush, at this stage, gentle brushing techniques need to be taught. They need to know they have to keep it simple and avoid sharp or crunchy food, and alcohol based mouthwash, or anything that is bad for their oral health.

The dentist, more than being a professional, needs to treat his patient like a child, as the patients at this stage are overwhelmed physically and emotionally. The details offered need to be written down in a very simple way, so that is easy for the patients to follow, and there are no side effects. Every cancer patient needs to be treated with a higher level of understanding, with more care, more love, more patience, and more support.