CHEMO/RADIATION MOUTH PAIN
Painful Side Effect of Cancer Treatment can be Mucositis
Cancer treatment and immunosuppression can have many side effects. One of the most common and devastating side effects is mucositis caused by damage to sensitive mouth tissues. Mucositis is often so bad that patients opt to discontinue treatment because of it. Symptoms can include:
- dry mouth
- painful ulcers anywhere in the mouth
- difficulty eating and swallowing
- dental decay
- and even life-threatening infection.
We treat mucositis using a technique called Photo Biomodulation (PBM) or LLLT
There are many names for Photo Biomodulation Therapy such as LLLT (Low Level Laser Therapy) or cold laser therapy or soft laser therapy. These names are descriptive of the low wavelength of this type of laser and the healthy effects of treatment using wavelengths between 600 and 1070 nm.
Good oral hygiene and nutrition are extremely important during cancer treatment or immunosuppression. But this is not always possible because of the pain of inflamed oral tissues. PBM does not just cover up the pain like various rinses, it dramatically reduces the symptoms so you can continue to brush, floss and keep your mouth clean as well as eat, drink and swallow easier.
Standard protocol for chemo and radiation therapy calls for a complete dental check up to be sure there are no dental problems that could arise as a result of immunosuppression. Patients are usually fitted with trays to use to apply fluoride gel that helps protect against the damage a dry mouth can cause to teeth. Unfortunately, when a person has painful mucositis, inserting a tray can be too painful so the teeth go unprotected and damage to teeth happens. With PBM treatments, the pain is minimized so fluoride trays can be used. We also monitor patients throughout their cancer treatment and treat any onset of decay conservatively and painlessly to minimize damage. After your therapy is completed, your teeth can be restored to a comfortable and beautiful smile using traditional dentistry.
We recommend the following:
- Complete dental evaluation and completion of any required treatment prior to chemo, radiation or immunosuppression therapy.
- Two PBM laser treatments of head and neck soft tissues one week before cancer treatment begins.
- PBM laser treatments at least three times a week during and after cancer treatment to reduce pain and promote faster healing.
- Conservatively treat dental problems as they arise during cancer treatment to reduce damage to dentition.
- After cancer treatment, get you back to having a comfortable and beautiful mouth.
PBM laser treatments are painless and take only about 10 minutes. There is a medical code for insurance for PBM treatment in conjunction with cancer treatments so they are often covered by medical insurance. Treatments are $45 each or we offer a package of 10 treatments for $400. If you are about to begin or are in the process of cancer chemotherapy, radiation therapy or immunosuppression, we welcome you to our practice and look forward to helping your mouth stay as healthy as possible and supporting you during this difficult time in your life.
All the best,
Leslie Haller, DMD, DABLS
Below are some links to more information about PBM or LLLT treatment:
Low-level Laser Therapy: A Standard of Supportive Care for Cancer Therapy-induced Oral Mucositis in Head and Neck Cancer Patients?
Download an article by Annette Quinn, an oncology nurse who studied the positive effects of low level laser: Annette Quinn Word Doc