By Dennis Lucas, D.M.D. –
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and right about now you may be asking yourself what does this have to do with my dental health?
Breast cancer survivors, especially chemotherapy patients, need to be aware that they are at greater risk of developing tooth decay and other dental problems. Quite frankly, chemotherapy can wreak havoc on your dental health.
How chemotherapy affects the mouth
Chemotherapy drugs interfere with the way cells in the body divide and reproduce. Both healthy cells and cancer cells are affected by chemotherapy drugs. Healthy cells can generally repair the damage caused by chemotherapy, but cancer cells cannot and so they eventually die. When the healthy cells in the lining of the mouth are affected, this can lead to a number of negative side effects. In this issue we are going to focus on dry mouth.
Dry Mouth – An Overview
Dry mouth means you don’t have enough saliva to keep your mouth wet. This lack of saliva causes the entire mouth to feel dry and sore. Dry mouth can cause problems with chewing, swallowing, tasting and speaking. In addition to causing discomfort, prolonged dry mouth can lead to other diseases and health problems.
Saliva plays an important role in oral health: it protects against tooth decay, aids in food digestion both in the mouth (chewing and swallowing) and the stomach, and controls the level of fungi and bacteria present in the mouth. Dry mouth can increase your risk of developing infections in your mouth. The technical term for dry mouth is xerostomia (pronounced ZEER-oh-STOH-mee-ah), but I think we will stick with dry mouth.
Don’t turn the page yet…chemotherapy patients are not the only ones that suffer with Dry Mouth…….
What causes Dry Mouth? A number of factors can contribute to dry mouth.
More than 1400 prescription medications affect the production of saliva. Medications for treating depression and hypertension are some of the more common culprits.
AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and most commonly Sjogren’s syndrome can all cause dry mouth.
Radiation is another leading cause of dry mouth. When patients undergo radiation therapy, their salivary glands are exposed to radiation which can reduce the production of saliva.
The use of drugs to treat cancer causes dry mouth. The treatment actually thickens the saliva, inhibiting the salivary glands from getting enough saliva to the mouth and decreasing the moisturizing properties of the saliva.
Damage to nerves:
Nerve damage in the mouth and throat can also affect the function of salivary glands. Accidents involving trauma to the mouth and throat and certain surgeries can damage nerves, sometimes decreasing the amount of saliva that is produced.
Dennis Lucas D.M.D
1000 Tamiami Trail North, Suite 302 Naples, Florida 34102 | 239-262-5851