WATCH: Dr. Haley Freymiller Joins Smile Design & Wellness Center in Viera as Brevard’s First Dental Oncologist
By Maria Sonnenberg // September 15, 2019
Dental oncologists provide comprehensive dental care for cancer patients
SPACE COAST DAILY TV: Orville Susong and Steve Wilson of the Friday Night Locker Room were at Smile Design and Wellness Center and talk with Dr. Haley Freymiller, who is trained in dental oncology, and made a presentation on dental oncology and biologic therapies, which can be seen below.
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – A diagnosis of cancer is devastating enough, but the disease delivers a double whammy to its victim with serious dental issues that can occur from radiation and chemotherapy.
Radiation or certain medications often cause osteonecrosis, a healing complication that can happen even spontaneously.
Oral mucositis, another side effect of radiation, causes the mouth to become incredibly sensitive and painful, leading to trouble eating or speaking to the point that the patient may need a feeding tube.
“Your mouth feels like sandpaper and it seriously affects your quality of life,” said Dr. Haley Freymiller, who recently joined Smile Design & Wellness Center in Viera as the area’s first dental oncologist.
Additionally, patients who have received radiation treatment to the head and neck are at high risk of developing rampant dental decay.
For its part, chemotherapy tends to compromise the immune system, so should a patient develop a tooth infection after chemo, he may not be able to combat it successfully.
Dental oncologists like Freymiller provide comprehensive dental care for cancer patients, both pre-ad post-treatment, and work in collaboration with other members of the patient’s cancer treatment team.
“The emphasis for dental oncology is prevention,” said Dr. Freymiller.
When performing a dental exam for a cancer patient, Freymiller has to think in terms of the next 10 or 20 years of the patient’s life. She looks for compromised teeth with a poor prognosis, removing them while the patient can heal normally in order to prevent osteonecrosis.
“Patients do better if they start with a healthy mouth,” she said. “What I do is try to prevent complications after radiation.”
Patients who have undergone radiation are recommended to not undergo dental extractions for the rest of their lives, because of the possibility of osteonecrosis, or bone death, of the mandible, which in extreme cases can result in the loss of the entire jaw.
For patients scheduled to undergo head and neck radiation, custom radiation mouth guards help minimize radiation-induced oral mucositis.
With the disease, which causes huge ulcers in the throat, cheeks and tongue, the patient may not get enough nutrition unless a feeling tube in introduced to help.
Low-level laser treatments after surgical procedures can be sued to treat mucositis, as can salivary supplements.
“Dry mouth also increases the risk for cavities exponentially, so in six months a patient can have cavities all over his mouth,” said Freymiller.
Wearing a radiation mouth guard can shield normal tissue from radiation therapy to provide more protection than a simple bite-block.
“We do all we can to optimize the patient’s quality of life during this very difficult time in their lives,” said Freymiller.
“It’s all about the quality of life.”
For more information, visit smiledesigncenter.us
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