Bone Marrow Transplant
A common treatment procedure in oncology care is bone marrow transplant (BMT). In this treatment, a patient with cancer has their bone marrow replaced with cells from a donor, often called a graft, so that it no longer contains cancer cells and has the ability to fight cancer.
Preparation for BMT is quite complex and is usually for those who have already undergone chemotherapy.
The following types of cancer are most amenable to BMT:
Leukemia: cancer of the white blood cells that are typically used in fighting infection
Lymphoma: cancer of the bodies germ fighting network
Patients about to undergo BMT receive medication to decrease their immune system. Because of this, any infection, including dental infection, that has been festering as chronic, may become acute. A full examination of the mouth and treatment to address potential sources of infection prior to BMT is critical. Patients may be placed on life-long medication processes after bone marrow transplant.
In the tissue sample are cells with immune system properties. These may interact with cells of the host and result in tissue changes. This is called graft-versus host disease or GVHD. GVHD persists for a long time, and may affect oral tissues, such as mucosa, muscle and saliva.
Following bone marrow transplant, routine preventive dental care can be continued to maximize oral health. While less common, secondary cancers may occur which means a comprehensive exam of the mouth should be performed at each visit.
For more information about bone marrow transplant and oral health, see these resources:
Dental Management of the Organ or Stem Cell Transplant Patient from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
Oral Complications of Cancer Treatment: What the Dental Team Can Do- National Institutes of Health
You may also wish to learn about:
Importance of good oral health before, during, and after cancer care
Finding a dentist
Financing dental care
Nutrition before, during, and after cancer care