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It has been well documented that patients who have been diagnosed with “cancer” often place other health concerns off, including dental problems. This often results in the delay of treatment and recovery from the side effects of treatment and effects on oral health. Dr. Dalal Alhajji, MSD, a clinical instructor in the department of oral and maxillofacial pathology, radiology, and medicine at the NYU College of Dentistry who works with cancer patients, states that dentists can counsel patients who experience unique issues related to oral health or who want to minimize side effects of their cancer therapies.

Chemo therapy and radiation treatments can change a patient’s oral health. These therapies can cause changes to the mouth’s oral mucosa, tongue and salivary glands, negatively affecting saliva production and disrupting a healthy oral environment. These changes can result in tooth decay, dry mouth, infections, mouth sores, tooth loss and for people on biphosphanate therapy, osteonecrosis of the jaw.

“It’s so important for dentists to talk to patients, because they are so concerned about putting out the cancer fire that they don’t realize that they will be putting out another fire if they don’t see a dentist,” Dr. Alhajji, who completed a fellowship in dental oncology at New York University School of Dentistry and who now specializes in treating cancer patients, said.