Late Effects Assessment Programme: Dental problems

Late Effects Assessment Programme: Dental problems

Certain types of treatment are more likely to cause problems with your teeth. Attending the Late Effects Assessment Programme (LEAP) will help you identify if there is a risk and what you should do about that.

Key points to remember

  • the LEAP Programme provides regular assessment and monitoring for all survivors of childhood cancer throughout New Zealand
  • caring for your child's teeth is important whether they have had treatment for cancer or not
  • certain types of treatment are more likely to result in problems

Does my child need to take special care of their teeth?

Caring for your child’s teeth is important, whether they have had treatment for cancer or not. Some young people who have had certain types of treatment are more likely to have problems with their teeth:

  • chemotherapy can affect teeth, particularly if you were five years of age or younger at the time of treatment. The enamel (the outer covering) can be of poorer quality than normal leading to discolouration and/or cavities. Some adult teeth may be missing or have abnormal roots
  • radiotherapy to the head or neck area can also cause damage to growing teeth, and roots of teeth, and occasionally a tooth doesn’t grow through the gum properly. It can also cause dryness in the mouth and/or the lack of saliva that makes it easier for decay to start
  • if you have a metal bone replacement or bone graft (prosthesis), any 'bugs' that enter the blood stream through tooth decay may cause a serious infection around the prosthesis
  • if you have had your spleen removed (splenectomy) tooth decay can lead to serious infection, so regular checks are important

Does my child need to take special precautions when having dental work done?

If your child has any of the following it is important that you tell their dentist as they may need antibiotics before any dental treatment, including cleaning:

  • shunt (tube that drains the fluid from the brain).
  • limb salvage (metal bone replacement or bone graft).
  • leaky heart valve (sometimes happens after radiation to the chest)

The reason for antibiotics is that when any work is done on the teeth, bacteria that normally live in the mouth is released into the blood stream. These bacteria can attach themselves to the graft, abnormal valve or shunt and cause an infection to start.

All the information in the Childhood cancer section of this website has been written by health professionals who work in the field of paediatric oncology. They have been reviewed by the members of the National Child Cancer Network (NZ). Medical information is authorised by the National Child Cancer Network Clinical Leader.

Attached Files: 
LEAP: Dental problems (pdf, 0 bytes)

This page last reviewed 12 April 2013.
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