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Preserving Your Dental Health Before and After Radiation Treatments

Your smile is probably the last thing on your mind when you learn you need cancer treatment. It’s important to note, however, that radiation therapy for cancers in your throat, neck, or head can actually jeopardize your oral health.

At South Bay Prosthodontics in Torrance, California, our experienced specialists work closely with the radiation oncology program at Torrance Memorial Hunt Cancer Institute to provide pre- and post-radiation treatment for people undergoing radiation therapy. 

Our prosthodontists have these insights to offer about preserving your dental health while treating cancer in your neck or head.

How radiation affects your mouth

When you undergo radiation therapy to your head, neck, or throat, you often experience changes in your saliva. Your saliva — or spit — plays an essential role in your oral health by:

Unfortunately, going through radiation therapy can cause changes in your saliva or damage your salivary glands. As a result, your saliva can become thick or sticky, or you can have less saliva and experience dry mouth.

Dry mouth, clinically known as xerostomia, increases your chances of tooth decay, infection, and tooth loss.

Oral side effects of radiation

The mouth symptoms seen with head or neck radiation can occur during your treatment or persist for years. A few of these side effects include:

Fortunately, by taking the right steps with your dental care, you can help protect your teeth.

How pre-radiation treatments help

Scheduling a pre-radiation oral treatment is an important preventive step to preserving your long-term dental health. During this appointment, we do a comprehensive oral exam and review your medical history. 

We also look for existing issues that could worsen during your radiation treatments to help reduce any complications.

A pre-radiation oral treatment could include:

We also take several X-rays to get a clear picture of your jawbone health before your treatment begins.

Continuing your care with post-radiation treatments

When you finish radiation therapy, you need to continue to be diligent with your oral health, of course. 

While radiation treatment is highly effective at killing cancer cells, it can also permanently damage soft tissue in your mouth and your salivary glands. These changes put you at risk of more cavities and infections in the years to come.

After having radiation, our team recommends:

You can also take steps to keep your mouth moist and comfortable by carrying a water bottle, staying hydrated, and limiting your caffeine intake.

Proper dental care while undergoing radiation will certainly give you something to keep smiling about. Contact our office in Torrance, California, by calling 310-626-1791 to schedule your appointment today. You can also send a message to the team here on our website.

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