Family & Cosmetic Care in a Comfortable, Relaxed Environment.

Serving Las Vegas and Henderson, Nevada since 1999.

Dentistry is about more than just checking your teeth. Most dentists have extensive training, education, and knowledge of systemic and oral diseases, and the symptoms to be on the lookout for.  A good dentist will know how to diagnose these conditions, refer you to specialists, and sometimes prevent them from progressing. All of this adds up to comprehensive dental healthcare for you and your family.

Conditions Associated With Oral Medicine

-Oral Cancer – Can be diagnosed in early stages by your dentist. If oral cancer is not diagnosed early, it can be life threatening. About 40,000 new oral cancer cases are diagnosed each year in the United States alone. Overall survival rate at the 5 year mark is just 42%. However, if diagnosed early, the survival rate significantly improves to just over 90%.

Routine dental examinations include a full head and neck examination. This allows the dentist to monitor for any changes in the tissue. Also, many dentists use a VELscope for early oral cancer detection. The VELscope is a special light that allows the dentist to see changes in the tissue before the naked eye can see them. This improves chances of early diagnosis via biopsy and thus, higher chance of survival.

If oral cancer diagnosis is confirmed, the patient needs to be monitored during cancer treatment to ensure there is minimal detrimental effect to the teeth and oral tissues. Chemotherapy tends to create oral issues like xerostomia (increases chance of fungal infections of the mouth), mucositis (very painful mouth irritations), tooth decay(due to dry mouth), radiation necrosis (bone death), and periodontal disease. This is why it is recommended that care is coordinated between the oncologist, physician, and dentist.

Following treatment, it is imperative to get routine oral cancer screenings as the chance of oral cancer recurring is quite high.

-Temperomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD) – TMD issues can be extremely painful and uncomfortable. As TMD progresses it creates an imbalance in the facial muscles and bone structure leading to issues with simple facial movements and even chewing. Once it gets to this point, the issues get worse as the pain just increases as well as the imbalance. These patients will be at increased risk for tooth decay and periodontal disease since they will be unable to properly perform routine oral hygiene maintenance.

Treatment for TMD ranges from medications and steroids to manage the discomfort and pain to surgical options. Surgery is always the last resort as the surgery does not always pose the answer patients are looking for. Botox is a newer treatment used to freeze the muscles and attempting to restore facial muscular harmonies before the situation gets worse.

-Anemia- Patients who are anemic tend to lose papilla on the tongue, giving it a bald appearance, also, fissures of the tongue increase in depth. Anemics also tend to crave ace, and brgin to chew on ice. This is a habit that can easily cause tooth fractures.

-Herpes Simplx Viruses (HSV)  - This virus is responsible for cold sores (HSV-1) and genital herpes (HSV-2). Studies have shown that almost 70% of all Americans have been exposed to the herpes simplex virus. Luckily, even if exposed they do not always show symptoms of the virus. Those that do will show the classic mouth sores around the lips. These sores or blisters can be quite uncomfortable and embarassing.

Herpes Simplex virus generally does not affect our oral health unless they are so uncomfortable that we are unable to maintain proper oral hygiene. Treatments for cold sores include changes in diet, increase intake of certain vitamins like E and Zinc, as well as pharmaceutical options. Pharmaceutical options include Xerese and Viroxyn. Both have been shown to be effective in limiting symptoms of outbreaks.

-Canker Sores (also called apthous ulcers) – Often confused with cold sores, they are very different. Most canker sores are single, isolated oral lesions usually caused by stress or trauma to oral tissues. Canker sores can occur a few times per year but are not known to be contagious. It is believed that canker sores have a genetic component to them but studies have not confirmed this to date.

It should be noted that canker sores can also be the sign of something more ominous and should be ruled out. General rule of thumb, is if they go away in under 7-10 days, only appear a few times per year, and are small there should be nothing to worry about. However, if they are large, last longer than 7-10 days and occur much more frequently, the patient should be investigated further for the presence of a systemic disorder. These disorders could include anemia, autoimmune disorders, or even inflammatory bowel disease. Sometimes the answer can be as easy as changing your toothpaste to a brand that is SLS (sodium laryl sulfate) free.

Treatment for canker sores include cauterization of sore (to facilitate faster healing), use of topical corticosteroid, or application of Debacterol. Most people will just allow the lesion to heal on its own. If the sore are SLS related, then changing toothpaste to a non-bubbling, SLS-free brand can bring instant relief.

-Autoimmune diseases- Many different autoimmune diseases cause issue in the mouth, or face, and jaw joint. Oral fungal infections, arthritic TMJ, oral tissue sloughing and blistering, facial rashes, bone growth, and other symptoms can give your dentist reason to refer you to an immunologist for a thorough workup.

Oral Medicine Conclusion

The bottom line is a well educated and trained dentist is capable of diagnosing more than just tooth decay. Your oral health is inherently linked with your general health. Understanding the importance of regular dental care for you and your family will allow you to get a jump on many diseases that might develop. Early diagnosis is the key to treating many conditions and diseases.

Almost one third of all Americans diagnosed with cancer each year will develop oral health issues. Patients who undergo life saving treatments for various cancers are usually unaware they may develop painful and debilitating conditions following their cancer treatment. A thorough dental examination is a critical step in maintaining their overall health throughout cancer treatment. This includes examination prior to, during, and after cancer treatments. Untreated oral disease can also complicate cancer treatment. The dentists role in patient management can be beneficial to the patient beyond their oral cavity.

Cancer can be treated or slowed down with proper treatments like, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The type of treatment can be very effective but also can have very debilitating or even painful side effects that can can affect other parts of your body. These can include your mouth, teeth, gums, oral tissues and salivary glands. Being aware of these possible cancer treatment side effects can help patients reduce and manage them with help from physicians and dentists alike.

How can your oral health be affected by cancer?

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatment for cancer can have oral side effects. This varies depending on the type of cancer and the aggressiveness of the treatment. Those side effects can display

American Cancer Society

American Cancer Society

themselves in different ways:

-Dry Mouth (Xerostomia). Salivary production and flow are affected because the salivary glands can be affected during treatments for cancer.

-Tooth Decay. This can happen very rapidly due to the dry mouth condition.

-Burning Mouth Syndrome. There might be a painful or burning feeling in the mouth, tongue and gums. This also occurs from the reduction in salivary flow.

-Erosion of teeth due to high acid in the mouth following reflux and vomiting

-Stiffness in jaws..

-Problems with eating, speaking, and swallowing.

-Alteration of taste sensation. Your ability to taste properly will decrease..

-Gum inflammation and swelling, Periodontal disease can develop.

-The immune system is weakened.

In order to manage all the side effects from cancer, your dentist can make you recommendations to keep your mouth comfortable and healthy.

Dental Examination Before Treatment of Cancer

A pretreatment dental examination can identify potential issues and help educate the patient about the importance of maintaining good oral care. This examination can be completed by a your local or by a hospital based dentist. The evaluation includes a thorough examination of hard and soft tissues It will also include x-rays to detect trauma and possible sources of infection. Before cancer treatment begins, the dentist can also do the following:

-Removal of orthodontic bands if highly stomatotoxic chemotherapy is planned or if the bands will be in the field of radiation.

-Evaluate comfort and fit of dentures and oral appliances.

-Any teeth that need to be removed or have large fillings, crowns, should be performed at least two weeks prior to the beginning of radiation therapy to allow for proper healing, and at least 7-10 days before myelosuppressive cancer chemotherapy starts.

-For adults receiving head/neck radiation, removing teeth that may pose a problem in the future. The jaw bone , after being exposed to radiation does not heal properly following trauma, a simple removal of a tooth can result in bone death (osteonecrosis) which can destroy large areas of jaw bone. If you receive head and neck radiation you will need to take extreme precaution to avoid needing extractions for the rest of your lifetime.

-For children, consider extracting highly mobile primary teeth and teeth that are expected to fall out during the cancer treatment window.

-Instruct patients on the maintenance of proper oral hygiene, nutrition, the use of fluoride gel, rinses, dry mouth products, and the need to avoid tobacco and alcohol use.

During the examination, the patient will also learn about home care to protect oral tissues and minimize oral complications. The dentist or hygienist will instruct the patient on special brushing and flossing techniques, mouth rinses, and other approaches to keep the mouth as moist and clean as possible to reduce the risk of infection and pain.

Oral Care during Treatment

Even with examinations before cancer treatment, regular oral exams and care are necessary during cancer treatment. Good communication and planning between physician and dentist can reduce the Dental Carerisks of oral complications and maximize the efficacy of dental and supportive care. Specific oral health symptoms to remember when treating patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation include the following:

Symptoms can include:

-A sticky, dry feeling in the mouth.

-Trouble chewing, swallowing, tasting or speaking due to dryness in oral cavity.

-A burning feeling in the mouth.

-A dry feeling in the throat and tongue.

-Dry,Cracked lips.

-Mouth sores.

-A fungal infection in the mouth or at the corners of the lips, like oral candidiasis.

Chemotherapy Issues

-Fever of unknown origin may be linked to an oral infection.

-Have the patient schedule appointments carefully. Patients should be seen when blood counts will be at safe levels.

-Conduct blood work 24 hours before dental treatment to determine whether the patient’s platelet count, clotting factors, and absolute neutrophil count are at adequate levels to prevent hemorrhage and infection.

-If the patient has a central venous catheter, careful consideration should be given to implementing the American Heart Association (AHA) prophylactic antibiotic regimen before any dental work.

Radiation Therapy Issues

-Treat infections. Ulcerations and dry, friable tissues are easily infected.

-Nutrition.Instruct the patient on the importance of healthy eating to maintain nutritional status, emphasizing the need to avoid foods that irritate sore tissues or cause dental decay.

-Show patients exercises to reduce tightening of mouth muscles,( trismus). Fibrosis of the tissue may occur if the chewing muscles are in the direct field of radiation. Ask your dentist to teach you how to exercise and stretch these muscles properly to avoid or alleviate the symptoms.

Follow up Dental care

Patients may continue their regular dental care schedule once all complications from chemotherapy have subsided and blood counts have recovered.

Once radiation therapy has been completed and acute oral complications have subsided, the patient should be evaluated by a dentist every four to eight weeks for the first six months. After that the dentist can decide the schedule the patient needs based on findings.

Post Cancer Treatment

Head and neck radiation therapy can cause oral complications that continue or emerge long after treatment has been completed. Although cancer patients may no longer be under an oncologist’s care at that time, what they learn about oral health during their treatment will affect how they deal with subsequent complications. Patients receiving radiation therapy need to know about its risks:

-High dose radiation treatment carries a lifelong risk of osteonecrosis, xerostomia and dental cavities

-Because of the risk of osteonecrosis, people who have received radiation should avoid invasive surgical procedures (including extractions) that involve irradiated bone

-Radiation to the head and neck may permanently reduce the quantity and quality of normal saliva. Daily fluoride application, good nutrition and maintaining proper oral hygiene are very important.

-Radiation can change oral tissues. Dentures may need to be remade or relined after treatment is completed and the tissues have become stable. Some patients are never able to wear dentures following cancer treatment again because of friable tissues and xerostomia

-A dentist should closely observe children who have received radiation to craniofacial and dental structures. They want to ensure that abnormal craniofacial growth and skeletal development does not occur.

Cancer can be a very debilitating disease in many areas. But if planned accordingly before cancer treatment, we can limit those issues together and face them head on to create the scenario for the best possible outcome from cancer.