If you or a loved one is presently undergoing radiation therapy or chemotherapy, you are likely familiar with the complications and side-effects of common cancer treatments. But you may not have thought about how dental implants can help when treatment is complete.

While treatment can extend and save lives, it can also wreak havoc on various systems throughout the body, including the mouth and teeth. Even people who have never experienced dental issues may suffer from severe tooth decay or tooth loss during and after cancer treatment.

How Can Cancer Treatment Affect Your Oral Health?

Oral Issues Associated with Chemotherapy

Generally speaking, oral changes related to chemotherapy diminish shortly after treatment ends. Some signs and symptoms include:

  • Changes in taste
  • Infection
  • Infection
  • Mouth and gum pain
  • Mouth sores
  • Tongue peeling or burning

Oral Issues Associated with Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy involving the head and neck can result in signs and symptoms that linger years after treatment. Some issues include:

  • Bone disease
  • Increased tooth decay risk
  • Infection
  • Jaw stiffness
  • Loss of taste
  • Mouth sores
  • Salivary changes (dry mouth, decreased saliva, thickened saliva)

Oral Issues Associated with Stem Cell and Bone Marrow Transplants

  • Mouth sores
  • Salivary changes (dry mouth, decreased saliva)
  • Sensitivity to acidic and spicy foods
  • Swallowing difficulty

Oral Issues Associated with Medications

  • Bone loss or weakening
  • Infection
  • Pain and swelling
  • Salivary changes (dry mouth, decreased saliva)

How Can Dental Implants Help After Cancer Treatment?

After cancer treatment is over, many patients start looking for options to replace missing teeth. This is a crucial step to nourish yourself well and to enhance your smile, which also helps the emotional healing process.

Dental implants fuse to the bone

Dental implants are typically the best choice for replacing missing teeth because they anchor in the jawbone like natural tooth roots. Additionally, the body responds to them as it would a natural tooth. The root-like structure of dental implants stimulates bone and tells your body the bone is still needed, so it doesn’t resorb as it would when your teeth are missing. If your jawbone intact to support your facial muscles, it can help you look younger longer.

Dental implants are not ideal in all circumstances, particularly if you’re struggling with jawbone issues or infections.

Consult with a Dentist Before, During, and After Cancer Treatment

Although you can’t completely prevent dental-related issues associated with cancer treatment, you can often minimize the effects. For example, fluoride treatments can help keep teeth strong and less susceptible to decay, while dry mouth treatments help maintain natural saliva balance and reduce the risk of decay. It’s also important to follow up with regular dental visits throughout the treatment process, so small issues can be treated before they result in tooth loss.

If you’ve already completed cancer treatment and are looking for missing tooth replacements like dental implants, book a consultation with the Atlanta Center for Cosmetic Dentistry to find out which options are best for you.