When one faces something as daunting as a cancer diagnosis, they may find hope and healing in many places. Some find comfort in a higher power or in the marvels of medical science that give hope for a positive outcome. Most will lean into their friends, family, and the caregivers around them. When Joanne Braydon first received her cancer diagnosis, the warmth and comprehensive care she sought came from an unusual place: her dental care team.
Generally, people are aware of cancer treatment’s common side effects — nausea and hair loss. But most people do not know that one-third of patients who undergo cancer treatment develop complications that affect their mouth. Before and during cancer treatment, good dental hygiene may help prevent or decrease the associated oral complications.
At My Community Dental Center (MCDC) we have learned many things throughout our patient-centered care journey. We have witnessed time and time again that when multidisciplinary healthcare providers work together, it leads to quicker treatment and better outcomes.
“My husband and I came to My Community Dental Center in Howell as an emergency patient to get dental clearance so that I could start treatment for cancer. I was just diagnosed a few days before and was a nervous wreck because of everything I was facing. On top of that, I had to go to a dentist, which I have always been nervous about doing,” Joanne shared.
Preoperative screening is a vital part of a comprehensive approach to overall patient care and cancer treatment satisfaction. If a patient's mouth is not healthy before cancer treatment, patients are more susceptible to infection. If it is severe enough, it can delay treatment, often putting patients in need of more urgent dental care.
“I could not be cleared for treatment due to advanced decay. My years of no dental insurance and fear of the dentist had caught up with me during the worst moment of my life,” Joanne recalls, “To my surprise, what started so terribly, turned out to be the best dental visit I had ever had. The whole staff was warm and welcoming. They voluntarily worked through their lunches to squeeze me in for extraction of all my teeth.”
Joanne’s MCDC of Howell dental team worked diligently, knowing it is too late to have the dental work done once the cancer treatment begins. This is because the cancer treatment significantly reduces the body’s healing capacity and ability to fight off infection. Everyone agreed that time was of the essence, and being told to wait a week for a dental appointment was unacceptable.
Added Joanne, recalling how emotional of a time this was for her: “The doctor did a great job. I had no pain. I was cared for throughout the process, and when I had an unexpected medical complication at the end, they knew exactly what I needed: my husband. They let him come back [to the procedure room] so he could hold me and get me to relax to go home safely — forty-three years and he is still my hero.”
“[The Howell MCDC] dental office was my lifeline that day. They cared. I could feel it. I could not possibly recommend them more highly. They are simply the best.”