Dental Health And Childhood Cancer

Each year more than 15,000 children are diagnosed with cancer in the US. After a cancer diagnosis, the main goal is to get healthy once again. This can mean surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of treatments. Cancer, as well as the treatments for cancer, can take a toll on a child. However, it's important not to neglect other aspects of a child's health after a cancer diagnosis. One area that can't be neglected is dental health. Taking care of the teeth is very important during childhood. Here are three things to consider when it comes to the dental health of a child with cancer.

Finding The Right Dentist Is Important

Many people may be surprised when they learn that most dental and medical professionals recommend that children visit the dentist when they reach one year of age or six months after the first tooth erupts. When a child has cancer, these important first visits to the dentist can fall by the wayside. However, it's important to keep up with these appointments and to look for a pediatric dentist who has experience treating children with cancer. Often a child with cancer has different dental health issues. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry has a database that can help track down a dentist that works with children.

Current Treatments Can Affect Teeth

Oral complications are common during cancer treatment. They occur in 40% of patients receiving chemotherapy and in 80% of patients receiving stem cell transplants. Some complications that occur include gum disease, baby teeth not falling out, increased risk of cavities, enamel development problems, delayed eruption of permanent teeth, oral infections, and more. The best line of defense is regular checkups at the dentist and proper oral care. It's also important to communicate with the dentist about the child's treatment plan. A dentist will then be able to anticipate some possible impacts from the cancer treatment and be able to treat the patient accordingly.

Future Impacts

Another thing that must be considered is dental health after treatment. Winning the battle against cancer doesn't mean that the complications from the cancer and the cancer treatment are over. Even after the cancer is cured there can be long term impacts on a child's dental health that last well into adulthood. The dentist can work to create a plan to address some of these future issues. They can work to repair enamel and to get a child's teeth in the best possible shape. 

Dealing with childhood cancer can be incredibly stressful. However, it's important to not neglect certain aspects of a child's health. Keeping the teeth and gums in shape is a must during cancer treatment. Cancer can have long term effects on oral health both during and after treatment. This is why it's important to make regular visits to a pediatric dentist during cancer treatment.