CSN Login
Members Online: 18

Radiation damage to my teeth and gums

Sheilarhc's picture
Sheilarhc
Posts: 46
Joined: Jan 2007

Finished 28 (I think it was 28) treatments of radiation in April 2007. The first year was difficult, didn't like not having taste or saliva. Saw my dentist every three months to make sure my teeth would not suffer from lack of saliva. He never gave me fluoride trays and didn't feel the need to take X-rays. At the end of 2009 I started to have pain in my teeth and my face started to swell. I went to see another dentist and he was horrified with what he found. The decay was overwhelming and so was my level of pain. When I started radiation, my teeth were strong and healthy, at 36, I had never had a cavity. I knew that radiation and loss of saliva could cause damage but I had no ideas to this level. I've had somewhere around $14,000 worth of work done, lost 4 teeth, and had 20 dives in the hyperbaric chamber. I'm still in pain and my gums are receding so badly it just hurts to eat. i now have my trays and use the toothpaste prescribed by my dentist. Has anyone else had problems with their teeth or gums since finishing treatment?
Has anyone had implants? Thank you for any advice you have to give.

Sheila

sweetblood22's picture
sweetblood22
Posts: 3230
Joined: Jan 2010

Yes, I have had issues as well, and I do have the fluoride trays. I've had a restoration on all my teeth, $$$$$$$$. :( I have not had any pulled or HBO, and I pray I won't. I know he is watching #19 and told me, "you will not be taking that tooth to your grave."

My mouth is extremely dry, I am having gum issues. They look like they are really receding. I do not have gum disease. I go to the dentist again next week.

Sheilarhc's picture
Sheilarhc
Posts: 46
Joined: Jan 2007

What does that mean, restoration to your teeth. Is that like fillings, root canals, etc. I'm in pain all the time and only survive the day with pain meds. It's very frustrating and sad. I knew this could be a side effect but I'm sad that it is happening.

Thank you for the info.....good luck with your check up next week

sweetblood22's picture
sweetblood22
Posts: 3230
Joined: Jan 2010

I had every tooth filled, because the tops of them all were just awful. My teeth were just disintegrating. It happened very quickly. I have not had a root canal, ever. I'm pretty sure every tooth in my head is filled, though. I didn't have issues like this before cancer, I even had all my wisdom teeth before all this.

Hal61's picture
Hal61
Posts: 656
Joined: Dec 2009

Hi Sheila, it sounds like everything went south on you pretty fast. Many people here have had--or will have--teeth problems associated with radiation. I got some saliva back fairly fast-with7-8 months--and asked my medical onc if that would help in retaining some teeth. He said no, the damage was already done by the radiation. But I don't think he's entirely right on that. My only advice would be to use the flouride, and be sure and brush your gums along with your teeth. I too have a rising gumline, and I believe it you can keep them stimulated, and keep blood flowing in the tissue, that is helpful. A great many here have done time in the chamber, only to eventually lose the battle and end up with dentures. Not the worst thing in the world, but no fun.
Best of luck, Hal

Sheilarhc's picture
Sheilarhc
Posts: 46
Joined: Jan 2007

Hi Hal,

Yes, everything went south quickly. I'm just frustrated but I will try the tip you gave me. Brushing the gum line is painful but I will give it a try.

Thanks for you imput, I appreciate it :)

Sheila

sweetblood22's picture
sweetblood22
Posts: 3230
Joined: Jan 2010

I numb my mouth to brush my teeth because it's painful. I've used Magic Swizzle (aka Magic Mouthwash), orajel, lidocaine. Etc. My tongue and mouth are still extremely sensitive, and this helps.

Hondo's picture
Hondo
Posts: 5604
Joined: Apr 2009

Sounds like the same thing that happened with me. I always had great teeth but after radiation twice to the head the teeth and jaw all went to hell in a hand basket. I am still just trying to find the right people to work on my teeth as I also have problems with the Jaw not opening enough for the dentist to work on my teeth. I do have a Restorative & Cosmetic Dentist I see through MD Anderson who is trying to help me but still have the problems with the Jaw so back to MD Anderson again. The only good part of this is that I am not in any pain with the teeth as I have enough pain everywhere else.
:+})

Take care and welcome to H&N on CSN
Hondo

Bee1957
Posts: 2
Joined: Dec 2011

I had to have all of my teeth pulled! I have had dentures for two months now. Having a difficult time adjusting to them. Also have dry mouth which does not help. And my vocal chords were damaged from radiation, so the mouth and throat are quite the mess! But, rather cope with this than the alternative. :≈} I was told the teeth had to go or else I could developed a gum disease which would destroy my jaws and I would be disfigured and suffer from the pain.

Hondo's picture
Hondo
Posts: 5604
Joined: Apr 2009

I am sorry that you had to go through all of that but like you said it sure beats the alternative. I don’t have any gum disease just damaged teeth from too much treatment. I am glad that you have joined us here so welcome to CSN my friend.

Hondo

Sheilarhc's picture
Sheilarhc
Posts: 46
Joined: Jan 2007

Hi Bee,

My biggest fear is having all my teeth pulled. From what I've been told, the lack of saliva makes dentures a bit difficult. I guess I'm just praying for things to improve and deal with the situation. I live on pain meds (Norco and Oxy) just to get through to day. I am cancer free at the moment and try to remind myself that this too shall pass. Thanks for the imput and I hope you get used to your dentures.

Sheila

Sheilarhc's picture
Sheilarhc
Posts: 46
Joined: Jan 2007

oops...I posted twice. lol

Sheilarhc's picture
Sheilarhc
Posts: 46
Joined: Jan 2007

My jaw does not open very wide either but it does open enough so that my dentist can work on my teeth. I was hoping maybe I could just get implants but my dentist doesn't seem to think that's a good idea. I do have some salvia and I take salagen every four hours and that seems to really help. I was told it's not the quantity of saliva but the quality that is the problem.
Radiation....it's the gift that keeps on giving,

I'm sorry you're in pain. I remember the days of "pain free", seems like a lifetime ago.

Sheila

Hondo's picture
Hondo
Posts: 5604
Joined: Apr 2009

Did you use any type of Jaw stretching device, I had 22mm of opening when I finished my second radiation treatment. Now all I have is about 12mm unless I use a Dynasplint to try and keep it open.

So right on the radiation being the gift that keeps on giving, so very true.

Hondo

Sheilarhc's picture
Sheilarhc
Posts: 46
Joined: Jan 2007

Hondo,

My surgeon had me work with tongue depressors. I would stack them together and slide them into my mouth to hold open my jaw. I stack as many as I could handle and then hold them in my mouth as long as I could. From there I would TRY to add another depressor after a few days. I did help, it hurt like crazy but it helped. I just get sad that I've come so far yet I'm still suffering. Trust me, I realize and am grateful that I'm in recovery I just selfishly miss my old self. I miss being able to eat, taste, swallow, and spit like a normal person. I battle with depression and although I try not to wallow in self pity, sometime....I just can't help it.

Hondo's picture
Hondo
Posts: 5604
Joined: Apr 2009

I used the sticks at first then got a TheraBite System that did help a lot and was better than the sticks. Because of having Radiation twice to the head I have a lot more damage to the jaw and muscles that work the jaw. Now it seems like everything I do to try get more opening in the jaw just has the reverse effects, it gets smaller. I am not thinking about getting a PEG tube to use for most of my nourishment and just use the mouth now and then for things that I can taste. My Last treatment was in March 2005 so I am now just about 6+ years passed and just now are some of the side effects really starting.

I too deal with depression but have been able to control it most of the time. It is not easy but I pray about it a lot and somehow I find strength in my prayers to keep going every day.

TheraBite

Wishing you well
Hondo

longtermsurvivor's picture
longtermsurvivor
Posts: 1755
Joined: Mar 2010

Sheila,

I was just seen by the university based dental clinic in advance of my second go at radiation. I was told they now do implants on some people post radiation. I don't know how to interpret this, of course, but if you ever get to where you really want to explore this, you might consider seeing a dental service that has done a lot of dentistry on people like us.

Pat

SASH's picture
SASH
Posts: 276
Joined: Apr 2006

I had 12 pulled before radiation. Then had many cavities filled since radiation has ended. 3 teeth broke because of the decay and damage that the radiation caused. One of the ones that had broken had the root left in the gum. This morning I found that the root was loose and just came out. A few minutes of rinsing out my mouth I had very little blood.

Now I have something for the tooth fairy. Hope she is hot. ;-)

sweetblood22's picture
sweetblood22
Posts: 3230
Joined: Jan 2010

Dude, I hate to break this to you, but the tooth fairy, was just my mom, and she is so not hot....... ;-)

SASH's picture
SASH
Posts: 276
Joined: Apr 2006

LOL

Kent Cass's picture
Kent Cass
Posts: 1746
Joined: Nov 2009

I finished NPC tx in 4/09, and since have had one root canal and 2 Crowns, and 4 teeth rebuilt. Had a number of Crowns before C came my way, and they are the only teeth which have not suffered major damage. Need tops put on a number of other teeth. My gums seem to be about the same over the past 1 1/2-years, so your post has given me cause for concern. Was hoping the gums would stay the way they are, albeit with loss of tissue from the rads, so am inspecting them a bit more than before, now. Does get expensive, and does make one wonder if it wouldn't have been better to just get them all pulled before tx and go the denture route. Please keep us informed on how you're doing.

kcass

denistd's picture
denistd
Posts: 482
Joined: Apr 2009

Hi Sheila, I too had good teeth before radiation, I had treatment in Spring of 2009. Early 2009 I had to have 4 teeth taken out, had HBO before and after extraction. The damage was done, slowly the remaining teeth started to decay and break off, my oral surgeon said, in August that they all should go (17 left) I agreed as the pain and visual appearance was a real downer. HBO again, 20 dives and then into the OR for the extractions, all went well. I now have false teeth, tough to get used to and the lack of a lot of saliva does not help, although 80% of my saliva has returned, the mouth still gets dry, funny though in that when the teeth first go in in the morning my mouth salivas up. The surgeon said no implants, did not want to go into the bone even though he said there was nothing wrong with the bone, that it was strong and healthy. I can open my mouth fully and have no other issues. the false teeth look good and I am very happy to be away from that pain, and smiling is back to normal, I used to get depressed in public as I felt a mouth full of broken teeth made me look like dracula. All the best. Denis

HydroLar's picture
HydroLar
Posts: 14
Joined: Dec 2011

Hi Sheila, I was diagnosed with tonsil cancer and just finished radiation treatments 5 months ago when I started to notice that my gums are receding. This makes my teeth extremely sensitive to hot and cold as well as to concentrated sugar such as candy.

After the diagnosis (I was 56 years old), a partial tonsilectomy, chemo, a stint in the ICU, radiation and a ruptured appendix (not related to cancer just an added bonus) I am shellshocked so sensitive teeth were not one of my concerns. My dentist had even talked to me about radiation killing my jawbone requiring bone grafts...

I am not one to look back and second-guess all my questionable activites such as smoking for 25 years, bad diet, drinking, spicy foods so I am not too worried about it. I take precaustions such as seeing my dentist regularly, using teeth sensitive toothpaste and brushing teeth and gums lightly and regularly but if I eventually lose all of my teeth in spite of my precautions then what will be will be.

I am just happy to be alive.

TereB
Posts: 288
Joined: May 2003

I've had radiation twice in the head/neck area. Nobody said anything about the teeth but luckily my dentist had worked at M.D.Anderson and had experience with cancer patients. He knew what radiation did to teeth. I had my teeth cleaned every four months and used special toothpaste plus other Biotine products (including gum) for my dry mouth. My dentist was determined to save my teeth and it was years later when the upper ones had to come out. An oral surgeon did it because of the damage to my jaw bone. Before surgery I had 30 sessions in the oxygen chamber, surgery and 10 more oxygen chamber sessions. I had temporary upper dentures for about six months. Oral surgeon and dentist were waiting to see if the bone would accept the implants and not crumble. Well, the sessions in the oxygen chamber worked, my jaw bone took hold of the four implants and I now have an upper denture that works very well, no problems at all. As the years went by, one of my lower teeth started causing pain, dentist sent me to oral surgeon again, another 40 sessions in the oxygen chamber and oral surgery to remove all the lower teeth. I said to take them all out because I didn't want to go through this again and definitely didn't want toothache again. My teeth had "spots" on them caused by radiation. The oxygen chamber is great. It kept my jaw bone from crumbling and accepted the new three implants in the lower jay. I still have my temporary denture, waiting for the permanent one since the bone accepted the implants.

I hated losing my teeth or knowing I had no real teeth and had to use dentures. Dryness in your mouth caused by radiation is really bad for teeth, it allows bacteria to stay in your mouth very happy because there is no saliva to push it away. I am glad I no longer have toothaches. The oxygen chamber was not bad at all and it really helped. Without it I wouldn't be able to have implants. I hate the lower temporary denture because it just wont stay still and it is harder to eat but it is temporary.

Nobody mentioned things that would happen after radiation. My jaw doesn't open as much as it did before radiation but the dentist and oral surgeon can still work in there. My taste buds have changed; I no longer eat hot stuff (which I used to love) or anything with pepper or vinegar. I have no problems with cheesecake or chocolates that melt in my mouth. I just remembered my dentist also gave me fluoride treatments plus the trays. I think the fluoride plus cleaning every 4 months helped keep my teeth healthy for a long time. It was years after radiation that I lost my teeth. It helped that my dentist had experience with cancer patients and wanted me to keep my teeth for as long as possible. Had a good oral surgeon too. My teeth actually crumbled easily so surgery was better. Actually little pieces of tooth broke off sometimes.

I hate saying I do not have teeth but it is not the end of the world. The denture with implants works great and my dentist is an artist. He made the denture and it looks like it was my own teeth. I cannot wait to get my lower dentures. I was told I didn't need to sleep without dentures but I do to let my gums rest at night. Easy to do since I am no longer 15 . . . or 25 or 35 . . . My husband and grown kids do not mind.

I worried about my teeth for a long time, was embarrassed about loosing my teeth but it doesn't bother me anymore; it is something less to worry about, no more pain in my mouth or problems with teeth or gums. No ugly teeth anymore either. And the oxygen chamber not only helped so I could get the teeth out but also helped my gums and jaw bone.

I have four implants on upper jaw and three on lower jaw. Dentures have special little thingy so they can attach to the implant. The dentures do not fall off or move, you can eat normally. As much as I hated the idea of having dentures before, it has worked very well for me.

Hope this has helped you.

Crazymom's picture
Crazymom
Posts: 286
Joined: Nov 2011

Is your dentist in Houston...just wondering since you said he worked at MD Anderson. I would love to have a second opinion on my teeth. I am new and just started Chemo at MD Anderson. They checked my teeth and said they were find. The radiation will start in about 4 weeks. If your dentist is in Houston I would love to get the name. Ann

HAWVET's picture
HAWVET
Posts: 318
Joined: Apr 2006

My last radiation treatment was in June 1998. My saliva never returned and has gotten progressively worse (probably due to aging). I have been having my teeth cleaned every four months.

I was not given the tray, but have been brushing with that prescription fluoride toothpaste. I also rinse my mouth with Act each night before going to bed. I have a couple of teeth that was probably repaired three times. I think I have lost 3 teeth since the cancer, had two root canals (lost one of them).

Dentist say my teeth is rotting more and wants to do two more root canals. I wear partials on the lower level. Food tends to get stuck more on the parcels.

jtl's picture
jtl
Posts: 419
Joined: Sep 2011

I am pretty recent but so far my teeth are fine. Had a check up this week. If I need anything close to major work I am going to check out Mexico or Puerto Rico. I have heard from people that it is WAY cheaper and the quality is just as good as most US dentists.

Hal61's picture
Hal61
Posts: 656
Joined: Dec 2009

Hi Sheila,

Your problems seem to be fairly constant across this board. There is though a pretty wide variance it seems about who gets hit hardest, soonest. My saliva came back relatively fast, within 6-8 months of treatment. I asked my medical onc if that fact would help me maintain my teeth. He said no, the damage--radiation--had already been done. I believe he's wrong and an early return to spit can help. He's one of those cup-always-empty docs anyway, or I should say, "was one" since I have left his care.

But unfortunately, your problems are too often repeated here.

best, Hal

Subscribe with RSS
About Cancer Society

The content on this site is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition. Use of this online service is subject to the disclaimer and the terms and conditions.

Copyright 2000-2014 © Cancer Survivors Network