Consider this: Your patient is about to go through one of the most challenging phases of their life. In addition to possible oral side effects that make eating and drinking difficult, patients might also experience nausea, hair loss, exhaustion, and a loss of appetite. You have the power to assist them with their oral side effects as their dental expert. We can significantly lessen the intensity of our patients' oral side effects, or even better, help them avoid them altogether, by simply being involved in their treatment. Isn't that amazing?
It's crucial to understand that we can assist people with ANY form of cancer receiving therapy, not just oral cancer. While the majority of dentists are aware that we can help with malignancies that affect the neck and up, many are not aware of the assistance we can offer to people getting cancer treatment in other parts of the body. From treatment, patients are likely to develop oral side effects such as extreme dry mouth, fungal infections, burning mouth, and mouth sores once their treatment has started, regardless of the type of cancer they have. Keep in mind that you have an impact on each of these patients.
Because we are likely to see the patient just prior to starting treatment, you can take this opportunity to strategize with them to help manage these symptoms.
1. Discuss the potential side effects and make a plan.
When they come to their appointment, prior to treatment, make sure they are aware of your support. Your patient will be suffering the adverse effects outside of your op. Provide them with the information that they need to feel in control of what may come. These side effects are incredibly uncomfortable and you have the ability to help prevent them and ease them if they are severe.
2. Give them a solid home care regimen to follow before treatment begins.
You'll want them to begin their cancer treatment with the healthiest mouth possible. Give them a strategy on how to both prevent and treat adverse effects. At the end of their appointment be sure to reiterate the plan. Make sure they are fully aware of what may come and let them know to follow the instructions to help with anything that may come up.
3. Follow up and support.
Encourage them to reach out to you if any side effects pop up, and be sure that they are scheduled for an appointment post-cancer treatment.
The most important thing to know is that we can help these patients! OraCare is so passionate about providing comfort during this time, we started a FREE program to help patients ease their oral side effects. If you are a current OraCare Provider, you can access this program for FREE and have OraCare sent directly to your patient. Here is the link to fill out the form:
Kristin Goodfellow RDH
Kristin is Chief Clinical Officer of OraCare, a practicing Registered Dental Hygienist