Feb 24, 2010 - 8:11 pm
Four and a half years after tonsil cancer treatment another phase of the cancer journey has entered my life. While eating a few weeks ago I bit down on a piece of food and felt what I thought was a loose crown.I immediately made a dentist appointment.
A quick exam revealed a loose tooth as opposed to a loose crown. The x-ray showed tissue and bone deterioration around and under the tooth. It is my right lower jaw tooth. It is also the side I received the most radiation (7200 rads). My dentist referred me to an Endodontic specialist for a root canal. Based on the x-ray and oral examination he was not sure the deterioration was caused from a root problem. However, based on my history and wanting to do everything possible to save the tooth he preceded with a root canal. Afterwards he suggested I see a peridondist as well.
I decided to seek a different opinion at this point. I met with the Radiation Oncologist at the cancer center where I volunteer and serve as a mentor for Head and Neck patients. He referred me to an oral surgeon who treats a lot of cancer patients. After further examination he has determined it is radionecrosis (tissue damage from radiation treatment). Even a lay person can see the change in the bone and tissue around the tooth.
I began Hyperbaric Chamber treatmenta last week. I will have thirty treatments and then oral surgery to remove the tooth. Another ten treatments will be necessary after the surgery to help promote healing of the bone and tissue. If they pull the tooth before the hyperbaric treatments they are convinced it will not heal.
The good news is the treatments are painless. However, I have a 75 mile commute one-way to the facility. The treatments are an hour and fifty minutes. The chamber holds 8 - 10 patients per session. I have had a little problem keeping my ears clear from the pressure. It is suppose to get better as I complete more treatments.
Hopefully, the hyperbaric treatments will restore circulation to the damaged area. This will reduce the amount of dead bone to be removed during surgery and help the area to heal properly afterwards.
This has nothing to do with good oral hygiene after treatment. So everybody please continue to be diligent in checking your mouth for any potential problems. I feel my regular dentist could have done a better job. I had a checkup and cleaning in early December and the loose tooth was not detected. Perhaps we all should consider annual x-rays to look for tissue and bone deterioration from radiation.
It is also very interesting that three other patients receiving treatments for the same reason. I will post an update once I finish to let all of you know how successful the treatments were in preventing further problems.