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The dental oncology support program at
the Penrose Cancer Center is available to patients who have special
dental needs involving their cancer treatment and is available
before, during and after treatment to help lessen the side effects
caused by cancer treatment. The health status of the oral cavity
greatly influences a patient's nutritional status, level of comfort
and ability to communicate. In addition, the mouth is an important
potential source of systemic infection in the compromised
The dental oncology support program at Penrose Cancer Center is
not intended to replace regular visits to the dentist.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What services does dental oncology provide?
A: A comprehensive dental exam is ordered by the attending
radiation oncologist for all patients with a diagnosis of head and
neck cancer. The purpose of the dental evaluation prior to head and
neck radiation is to prevent long term complications and improve
the quality of life before, during and after radiation treatment.
The dental hygienist performs many functions for the oncology
patient including a comprehensive oral exam to determine the
present conditions of the teeth and gum. A through prophylaxis
("cleaning") is required prior to radiation therapy to lessen the
bacterial load of the oral cavity. Impressions of the teeth are
taken to make custom mouth guards. Mouth guards are used to
minimize scatter radiation from metal fillings and crowns that can
damage the lining tissues of the mouth. Custom fluoride trays
are also made to prevent rampant tooth decay associated with
xerostomia from damage to salivary glands.
Q: Why is dental hygiene important while undergoing
treatment for cancer?
A: Weekly oral care and palliation of oral complications
associated with radiation reduces xerostomia (dry mouth),
mucositis (mouth sores), bacterial and fungal infections.
Q: What makes dental oncology different from a normal
A: Dental oncology has only recently become a focus in the
academic world of dentisty. Dental Oncology does not provide
standard services as a normal dentist but only services to minimize
the complications from radiation and chemotherapy.
Q: What do patients need to do get an appointment?
A: Referral from a PCC radiation oncologist: Drs.
Peddada, Monroe, Tanner.
A referral form for medical oncologists and physicians may become
available in the future.
Q: Is there a cost associated with your services?
Head and Neck Alliance
Oral Cancer Foundation Support Group
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