Patients During Chemotherapy
What if I need treatment during chemotherapy?
The most appropriate time to schedule non-emergent dental treatment during chemotherapy is after your blood counts have recovered. This is usually just prior to your next scheduled round or course of chemotherapy. The majority of the time, your dentist will order blood work prior to dental treatment to confirm levels are reasonable for treatment.
If you do blood work, what are you looking for in the results?
Bleeding may be a complication when your platelet count is < 30,000/mm3.
There is risk of infection when your neutrophil count is low. If you are receiving immunosuppressive chemotherapy you will usually reach the lowest blood counts approximately 7 – 14 days after the start of therapy.
When your neutrophil count is extremely low but you require necessary treatment, the oncologist will be contacted and you will be provided with antibiotics.
Sometimes the combination between low platelets and low neutrophil count means no elective treatment may be rendered but when emergencies do present themselves, the dental clinic is more than happy to see you!
Can I still brush and floss during chemotherapy?
The ultimate answer is YES; unless, your oncologist has told you to stop. Your oral hygiene program is individualized to meet changing needs and is modified throughout therapy according to medical status.
I have a dry mouth when I’m on chemotherapy, what do I do?
Dry mouth can be temporary as the chemotherapy can cause a decrease in salivary flow. Once chemotherapy is complete, your dry mouth will slowly start to go away. During this time, there are a couple things you can do:
- Carry a bottle of water and sip throughout the day, avoid acidic and sugary drinks/juices.
- Try to avoid hard/dry foods, or if being consumed make sure to drink plenty of fluids.
- Dry mouth products – these are available at most pharmacies and can help provide brief relief from the dryness.
If you need help figuring out which works for you, your dentist is more than happy to discuss the options available.