Cancer treatment can be hard on all parts of your body. Many of the treatments that are used to kill cancerous cells can also kill or damage your own cells. This isn’t too surprising because, after all, cancerous cells are actually mutated versions of your own cells.

Depending on the type and extent of cancer treatments, your oral side effects could be serious, and may significantly damage your smile. Fortunately, though, reconstructive surgery can give you back a beautiful, functional smile.

closeup of a female's big, white smile

Cancer Treatments That Impact Your Teeth

Some types of cancer may require surgery in your mouth. Salivary gland cancer, for example, may require removal of not only your glands, but also some of your palate and even many of your teeth.

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can both lead to persistent dry mouth (xerostomia) which can increase your risk of cavities. It can cause cavities to develop much more quickly than in the past because bacteria basically are unimpeded in their ability to grow, because your immune system may also be suppressed. In radiation therapy, dry mouth and its related risks can persist long after treatment stops.

Gum disease, abscessed teeth, and other oral infections can become more common during cancer treatment. This is related to dry mouth and suppressed immune system. In some cases we may need to remove teeth that we might otherwise attempt to save.

Approaching Reconstruction after Cancer Treatment

We don’t want to begin your reconstruction until after you’ve received a clean bill of health. Your cancer should be resolved to the point that your doctors have no plans for future treatments. With cancer, things can always change, but we want to have a reasonable assurance that you’re not going to be resuming treatments before we can finish your reconstruction.

If you have lost teeth, reconstruction may include dental implants, dental bridges, or dentures. Although we generally recommend dental implants, if you’ve had radiation therapy, you may be at risk for osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ), a serious complication in which your jawbone begins to die around the dental implant or any other cause of trauma. We may recommend a dental bridge or denture, depending on your situation.

We will also address any cavities that may have developed during cancer treatment, whether they require just simple fillings or more complicated and supportive dental crown.

Cancer may have taken your teeth, but it doesn’t have to take your smile. To talk to an Orange County cosmetic dentist about getting your smile restored to its natural beauty, please call (949) 551-5902 for an appointment at Rice Dentistry in Irvine.