Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Don't forget to brush (and floss) your teeth!

Teeth WhiteningThat may sound like a funny title, and you are probably saying to yourself, "Eww! Of course I remember to brush my teeth!"

The reason for my post is that while I was undergoing chemotherapy, and fighting for a life that was likely to be cut way too short, taking care of my teeth was the last thing on my mind. And, apparently, it also wasn't a concern of my doctors.

While I was going through chemo, my sister had braces. One day, about a year into my treatments, I was feeling pretty good, and I accompanied my mom and sister to her orthodontist appointment. That day, there was a visiting doctor in the office. A very nice man, who offered to take a look at my mouth while my sister was brushing her teeth. I remember him telling my mom and I that chemo causes dry mouth (this I knew very well!) and that because there was a lack of saliva, that bacteria could grow.

It's funny, because I remember this conversation very well now, but did not think too much of it during those days of treatment. There were days in those beginning months where I was so depressed that I had to be made to get up and take a shower. I really truly wish I had taken better care of my teeth and brushed every day, if not twice a day.

Anyway, over the last few years, I have had a lot of oral problems, mostly all stemming from side effects of chemo. I have had four root canals, and two were unsuccessful and lead to extractions of the teeth. Both of those happened before I was 30. I have found a dentist who is working with me to get my mouth back up to par. This includes having five teeth pulled, luckily, three of which are my wisdom teeth (the fourth one never came in), but that is still two more molars that I am losing.

I have been planning to write something like this for weeks now, but what actually made me sit down and write it is that the very woman who saved my life, my family nurse practitioner, is also fighting a battle that flossing her teeth might have prevented.

Laura suffered a stroke while driving last year. Over the past year she has made leaps and bounds towards her recovery, but in the last few weeks she developed an infection in her brain. It was recently discovered that the infection was quite possibly caused by gum disease. In a recent update, Laura asked her daughter to remind family and friends to floss their teeth! The doctors have given her antibiotics and they believe the infection will go away.

Back to my original topic. Take care of your mouth! There are so many health issues that can be avoided just by brushing and flossing daily.

For anyone currently going through chemotherapy, here is a link to Colgate's website, and information on chemotherapy and dental health. Here is another link for Livestrong that has information from the American Dental Association, National Cancer Institute and the Siteman Cancer Center.