Dental work during chemotherapy

Last Modified: September 14, 2005


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
Can a patient receiving chemotherapy have much-needed dental work?


Kendra Schaefer, DMD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Division of Prosthodontics at the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

Quite simply, the answer is yes, when timed correctly. The dentist should call the oncologist to determine if there are any contraindications to any medications that may be needed for the dental treatment. Patients can be more likely to get an abscess or infection during chemotherapy because they become immunocompromised. Dental emergencies can often be treated on an as-needed basis during chemotherapy by carefully timing the dental work around the low point (nadir) of the patient's blood counts. One exception may be very low platelets, but if the dental work is very important, the patient could receive a platelet transfusion prior to the dental work.

Routine elective dental care (cleaning) is generally NOT undertaken during chemotherapy because of the sores that patients can get in their mouth during chemotherapy, and the risk of bleeding because of low platelet counts.