dental care for children

Dental Care For Children With Cancer: Why It’s Important

Let’s face it: Our mouths are a dirty place. It’s important that your child keep getting good dental care when he’s fighting cancer.

Cancer treatment can be hard on developing teeth. According to a March 2014 review in Pediatric Blood & Cancer, children who get radiation or chemotherapy are at a higher risk for:

  • Cavities
  • Shorter tooth roots
  • Missing baby or adult teeth
  • Thinness or defects in tooth enamel
  • Gum disease

If your child gets a sore in his mouth, germs can get into his bloodstream. This is something you don’t want to happen, especially if his immune system is low. Good oral care is vital.

What Is Good Oral Care?

Ideally, your child should get dental exams as often as her dentist recommends. That way, if there are any problems like cavities, the dentist can treat her while her blood counts are still high and she can still fight infection well.

Why? Dental care can create small tears in the gums, which can introduce germs into in your child’s bloodstream.

kids with cancer

What To Do … And What Not To Do

Here are some ways to protect your child’s teeth:

  • Have him brush twice a day.
  • Use a brush with soft bristles to reduce the risk of causing tears in his mouth.
  • If his gums are getting soft or sore from chemotherapy, there are rinses he can use to keep his mouth clean. Or he can use dental sponges.

Kids should be careful with flossing. If they do it too aggressively, they can rub a sore into their gums. If you’re in any doubt, don’t let your child floss.

Trips To The Dentist During Treatment

When she’s receiving cancer treatment, your child should see the dentist as often as her doctor recommends. Again, make sure you go when her blood counts are high, so her immune system is strong.

Usually, you have to make dental appointments months in advance. But if you call the dentist and say, “We have good blood counts this week,” most dental offices might try to get your child in. Just make sure your dentist is aware that your child is going through cancer treatment.

It’s very important that kids get good oral care when they’re fighting cancer. By helping your child protect her teeth, you help her protect her health—and hang on to a great smile.

Anisa Hoie
I've been a nurse for nearly 32 years, mostly taking care of kids with cancer. My job is to give the kids and their families a personal touch while they go through treatment.

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