After being diagnosed with cancers of the palate and thyroid one after another, professional singer Jerry Garcia knew he was going to have to risk his career in order to save his health and family life.
With surgery recommended for both tumors, Garcia knew at every turn that he might have to take his musical ministry in another direction if surgical complications made him no longer able to sing in the caliber he’d built a career on. Instead, Jerry credits the quality of his recent album – he calls it the best he’s ever sung – to the surgeries and experts he saw at the U-M Health System.
“I came out of this unscathed with no vocal cord damage whatsoever,” Garcia said. “It’s the power of a strong positive attitude.”
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can cause complications like sores in the mouth and changes to the teeth, salivary glands, gums and bone, which makes mouth care important before, during and after cancer treatment.
Before cancer treatment begins:
Problems such as cavities, broken teeth, loose crowns or fillings, and gum disease can get worse or cause problems during cancer treatment. Because bacteria live in the mouth, it may cause an infection when the immune system is not working well or when white blood cell counts are low. If dental problems are treated before cancer treatments begin, there may be fewer or milder oral problems.
Visiting the dentist at least a month before cancer treatment begins allows time for the mouth to heal if any dental work is needed. In addition, a visit to the dentist before treatment starts will help avoid needed dental treatments during cancer treatment.
During cancer treatment:
Paying close attention to oral health during cancer treatment will help prevent complications or allow you to treat them as quickly as possible. Everyday mouth care during cancer treatment should include:
Brushing: Using only a soft-bristle brush 2-3 times a day and at bedtime for 2-3 minutes.
Let the toothbrush air-dry between brushings and replace the brush often.
Avoid mint flavored or other strong flavored toothpaste or toothpaste with whitening ingredients, which may irritate the mouth. Instead choose a mild flavored fluoride toothpaste.
Try brushing using a mixture of 1/4 teaspoon of salt added to 1 cup of warm water if toothpaste seems to irritate.
If you wear dentures, they should be cleaned and rinsed every day using a denture cleaner recommended by a dentist. Store the dentures in water or denture solution when not being worn.
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