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Wisdom teeth pulled before radiation?

Posts: 29
Joined: May 2009

My husband met with the cancer dentist, and he has advised him to get all 4 of his wisdom teeth pulled before he does radiation because they could cause problems during treatment. The dentist said he doesnt have to get this done before the chemo (which starts next week) but before radiation.

Has anyone else been advised to have wisdom teeth (or any teeth) pulled before treatment? What if we don't do this? Will it really cause problems later on?

Any info on tooth care would be so helpful. Thanks.

Posts: 37
Joined: Apr 2008

Hi Hope,
I had the same type of cancer as what your husband is currently facing. Stage 4 of the right tonsil. I think that your husbands is in the left tonsil? Anyway, I had my wisdom teeth pulled long before the cancer experience so it wasn't an issue for me. My dentist did make me two sets of teeth guards for lack of a better term. One set was considerably heavier than the other and I used it during my radiation treatments. I had a total of fifty-six radiation treatments. Two a day for twenty-eight days. The other one was used at home for floride treatments once a day. I followed my dentists directions to the letter and I didn't have any adverse effects. My teeth are as good as they were post treatment. I would recommend that you consult your family dentist and have him consult with the dentist recommending that they be pulled. Why go through anymore discomfort if it's not necessary. The treatment your husband is about to face is going to be tough enough. It's been said a thousand times on this web site but I'll say it again, attitude, family support, humor and God will get you and your husband through this. I'll be two years post treatment on August 16. By God's will, I'm still in remission. You will get through this! Your in my thoughts and prayers.

SASH's picture
Posts: 399
Joined: Apr 2006

Due to the location of my cancer, my tongue, I was required to have all my molars and my wisdom teeth pulled. That was a total of 12 teeth to be pulled. This was done about 2 weeks before I started radiation. One wisdom tooth was partially impacted and had only a small amount of decay. The rest of the teeth were perfectly healthy.

They may advise to get fluoride trays to keep decay to a minimum. Make sure to brush teeth after each meal. Use fluoride tooth paste, see the dentist regularly.

From what I was told was that the radiation can cause the blood flow to the lower jaw be limited. If this happens doing dental work in the future could be more difficult. Not having the wisdom teeth wont cause any issues with eating, talking, swallowing, etc. It might just cause a decrease in mental acuity. ;-)

Posts: 9
Joined: May 2009

I had stage III (left) tonsil cancer in 2007. As I understood it, the main reason to see the dentist was to take care of any cavities or other issues I may have had, and to get floride trays. My teeth were in good shape so my dentist did not pull any. I was told that I needed to be especially diligent about my dental hygiene and floride treatments. Saliva helps protect the teeth from developing cavities and it was very likely I would lose the ability to produce saliva due to radiation treatments.
One thing I found out too late was I should have removed the silver fillings I had from years ago. The fillings caused additional sores in my mouth. The mouth healed once the treatments were over. I had 39 radiation treatments and 8 chemo/erbitux.
As soon as my radiation treatments began I would use the trays at night before bed. After a few weeks of treatment my mouth was so sore and swollen I stopped using the trays. It was difficult enough to even open my mouth. I just made sure to brush my teeth with prescription toothpaste and used a baby soft toothbrush. The extra soft toothbrush was gentle on my gums and could fit into my mouth.
I see my dentist four times a year now, this is just to make sure if there are changes it will be recognized right away. So far, so good.
This is just my story, I was told a lot of patients did have teeth pulled, which teeth, I don't know.
Your husband does have to have any dental work completed before radiation begins so the decision should be made soon.
Wishing you the best.

Posts: 3
Joined: Jun 2009

Hi Needhope

I had cancer of the salivary gland. I have very strong and healthy teeth. At age 58, had only 3 fillings. I had to have my wisdom teeth pulled, as well as the last two molars on the effected side. The dentist who did this, told me that people she treated who had RT on the face told her they regret not having all their teeth pulled. Apparently the damage to the jaw, and the loss of saliva, makes it difficult to keep your teeth healthy. It is not a problem to have a filling, but if ever you have to have a teeth pulled, the jaw may not have the capacity to heal again. I heard stories of jaws disintegrating. It felt like a sin to pull so many healthy teeth, but under the circumstances I decided to trust the people with experience.
It is now two weeks since my last RT treatment, and my mouth is beginning to heal. During the last few weeks of treatment even the baby toothbrush was too big and painful to use. I found a little brush that are used for braces. This I could get into my mouth, and carefully brushed each tooth. A warm saltwater solution was best to rinse with.

Wish You well,

soccerfreaks's picture
Posts: 2801
Joined: Sep 2006

I also had my wisdom teeth pulled, along with a thorough cleaning that took two trips to the dentist (he is a thorough guy...or at least his lovely assistant is).

I agree with the respondent, too, who suggested a small toothbrush, at least at first, a soft, small toothbrush. In addition to the problems posted by the other respondent, there is the possibility that the mouth will not open as it did before, at least for some time, and the smaller brush helps to get in there and get to everything. As an addendum to that thought, if it so happens that the mouth does close up a bit, it means that it will be harder for a routine dentist to get back in to do work if such is required later.

When a hot spot was discovered in my mouth subsequent to treatment, first diagnosed as a cancer return but later amended to a cavity, my dentist could not extract that molar: I went to an expensive orthodontist who could do panoramic x-rays without having those awful little carboard bits shoved into my mouth, and who could officially knock me out and operate.

I'm just saying.

Obviously, as also indicated by others, hub will want to get both toothpaste and mouthwash that are anti-dry mouth. Oasis is one that comes to mind, but there are certainly others.

Best wishes to hub and his family.

Take care,


SIRENAF42's picture
Posts: 203
Joined: Oct 2008

I had 3 teeth pulled, all molars - 2 on the right and one on the left. They had older silver fillings in them and my dentist felt they would be problematic in the future due to amount of decay under the fillings. So they yanked em out 2 weeks before my radiation began. Never could understand why, so I looked it up on the internet. Radiation Necrosis. Its pretty nasty and now I do not regret getting it done.

Best of luck

Posts: 30
Joined: Jan 2009

Wow, I don't want to confuse you, but my story went like this. I went to a Maxillo Facial Dentist who specialized in head and neck cancer. He checked my teeth, took Xray's and also made me a mouth guard for floride treatments. I am fortunate and have never had a cavity i my life. I'm 52 years old now and did not have to have any teeth pulled. My oncologist says that he is surprised at the condition of my teeth after 7 weeks of radiation. My teeth are sensitive to cold and sugar now almost one year after radiation, but they are becoming less and less sensitive as time goes on. More changes may come later on, but for now I have had no problems with my teeth. I can eat whatever I want though some sugars are irritating and I really don't need or desire sugary things much more anyway. The bottom line is, get as much information as you can. Check with a specialist and not a regular dentist if you have concerns. My specialist told me that it was important to let any dentist I went to know that I had radiation to my head and neck. He said if they did not know how to respond to that, to let him know and he would find a dentist that understood that a head and neck radiation patient was not a typical patient. I realize everyone is different, but at least you know there is hope, but it all depends on individual circumstance.

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