Dental Issues and Bone Strengtheners

I’ve never been a big fan of going to the dentist. When I was a little kid, my family dentist was an elderly cousin who poked around in my mouth once or twice a year and always said everything looked good. He retired when I was in my early teenage years, forcing my family to find a dentist not related to us. My new dentist immediately found that I had about ten cavities that my relative had missed. I had several appointments, traumatic to me at the time, to fill all these cavities. I’m thinking my cousin should have retired a little sooner!

Strengthening my bones with Zometa

When I was diagnosed with lung cancer, my oncologist told me to make sure to continue to take care of my dental health. Since I had multiple bone metastases, she started me on bone strengthener infusions of a drug called Zometa to reduce the risk of bone complications such as pain or fractures. One possible long term side effect, though relatively rare, of Zometa is a condition called osteonecrosis of the jaw. In osteonecrosis, a portion of the jawbone becomes exposed and no longer covered by the gums, leading to necrosis (or death) of the bone. This often happens following extractions or other invasive dental surgery. Thus, it is vitally important to have dental checkups and take care of minor issues such as cavities before they lead to more major issues.

When part of my tooth disintegrated

I have been very vigilant about my teeth since diagnosis over five years ago, making sure I visit my dentist twice a year and informing him about my Zometa infusions. Over time, my infusion frequency has decreased from every 8 weeks, to every 3 months and now every 6 months. Still, I am definitely a long term Zometa user and need to continue to use caution when considering dental issues.

A few weeks ago, I was eating a sandwich when I chewed and swallowed something very crunchy. I felt around in my mouth and found that I was missing part of one of my molars. I assumed that it was a filling that fell out, but when I went to the dentist, I discovered that part of my tooth had actually just disintegrated. Luckily, there was enough of it still in my mouth that my dentist was able to plug the hole with a large filling, but otherwise, I might have needed more invasive dental work. I’m not sure if that would have been advisable or not given my long-term use of Zometa.

Dental issues and lung cancer

I survived the dentist appointment, not too traumatized other than having some recent dreams involving all my teeth spontaneously crumbling! But, I’ve talked to several others who have been living with lung cancer for a long time and have found that everyone I’ve spoken with has had dental issues. I’m starting to wonder if weakening teeth is a long term side effect of surviving with lung cancer and constant cancer medication usage. It’s hard to tell because it’s also not uncommon to have to replace fillings and have teeth crack with aging.

Do you have any dental stories to share? Would love to hear them!

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