One in Eight - Bluegrass Oral Health Center
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One in Eight

One in Eight

October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It’s a time when the nation comes together to support, remember, and provide funding for all those involved with this horrible disease.  

One in eight women gets breast cancer.

How do you wrap your head around that? One in eight, due to no fault of their own. One in eight usually at the height of their lives. Breast cancer isn’t caused by smoking, or processed food, or not enough sunscreen.

This is about busy moms sending their kids away for college and running households. This is about those people starting to count the days until retirement.  This is about stopping you in your tracks, knocking you on your back, and not knowing what to do when you get up.  How does cancer affect you?  Talk to a friend; I’m sure you know someone.

This article is dedicated to Terri Birkenhauer and Robbie Shuemaker, and all those courageous women and men who faced an indescribable journey and were left changed, but not defined, by the disease.

Over the years we’ve seen a number of patients fight cancer and it’s incredibly humbling to know we played a small role in their journeys. When a person is facing a life-threatening illness, oral health may not seem like a major concern, but it can often present major problems during treatment and remission. Know we are here to help.

Before cancer treatment, oncologists often have patients cleared by dentists. The reason for this is to eliminate risks of infection and make sure that a dental issue doesn’t interfere with treatment. The dentist takes new radiographs, performs a thorough cleaning, and addresses any urgent oral issues.

The mouth is a window to the rest of the body, and most systemic diseases will manifest themselves with some oral complication. Cancer and its noxious treatment modalities of chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone regulating drugs can cause stress on teeth and gums leading to sores, decay, and periodontal issues.

Chemotherapy and radiation are treatments designed to attack living and growing cells. The mouth is an area with some of the highest cellular turnover in the body; because of this, gums break down and get sores, bone doesn’t heal properly, and the cells that create saliva stop functioning. This leaves a person with a sore, dry mouth. Ask someone about chemo, and I bet this is one of the things they remember most.

Once treatment begins, changes may begin quickly depending on what is prescribed. Chemotherapy and radiation are both known to cause severe dry mouth and can weaken the immune system. Impeded saliva flow leads to weakened enamel, decreased taste (and appetite), difficulty with speech, and difficulty with swallowing.

We’ve found a few over the counter items that have proved very helpful; Biotene mouth rinse, ACT dry mouth lozenges, prescription “magic mouth rinse,” and mouth kote moisturizer.

Saliva is a buffer for acid — this means that it keeps the mouth safe from acid and provides nourishment for the surface of teeth. Without it, we become susceptible to nearly unfixable cavities and increased risk of periodontal disease. Once started, problems may persist through a lifetime and could require major reconstructive work including implants, crowns, or even dentures. What’s important to understand is that these issues can be alleviated if handled early.

The team at Bluegrass Oral Health wore pink every Friday to honor those in our own family that cancer has taken its toll on, but we also wore it for those that we see every day in our practice. We hope all of our readers know that we are here to make the journey with them and that we are committed to doing whatever we can to lessen the impact cancer has on lives.  Please let us know if you are in need of help, or know of someone we could assist.