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Are Dental Providers the Missing Link in Cancer Care?

Thank you to Genomeden for the invitation to share this article! 

Authored by Jill-Meyer Lippert, RDH
Founder & CEO Side Effect Support LLC

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reports that there were an estimated 19.3 million new cases and 10.0 million cancer deaths worldwide in 2020. By 2040, the global burden is expected to grow to 27.5 million new cancer cases and 16.3 million cancer deaths simply due to the growth and aging of the population. (1, 2) The growing numbers reflect the importance of developing strategies to address obstacles to collaborative care.

There is ample evidence that implementing oral care protocols in hospitals and long-term care settings can reduce dangerous treatment complications.

A few examples include:

● An award-winning program at Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento, California cut their cases of hospital-acquired pneumonia by 70% from May 2012 through December 2014 through nurse-monitored basic oral care routines. The first year alone is estimated to
have saved more than 2 million dollars in cost of care. (3, 4, 5)

● Oral care and oral hygiene education have been shown to reduce risks of mucosal barrier injury (MBI) and laboratory-confirmed bloodstream infections along with subsequent complications, including sepsis, organ failure, and possible death in patients receiving cytotoxic chemotherapy for hematologic malignancies. (6)

● A 2020 study showed that a simple addition of a xylitol wipe to a standard oral care routine can reduce the incidence of potentially lethal bloodstream infections for pediatric patients undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (7)

Oral hygiene and patient education, even in outpatient situations, are considered very valuable to minimize risks associated with oncologic side effects like oral mucositis and medication-related osteonecrosis of the jaw. (8, 9)

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