This early sign of leukemia can only be detected by a dentist. Don’t miss it

Bleeding and significant gum growth are the first little-known symptoms of leukemia. They appear in 40 percent. people with acute leukemia – reveals Monika Stachowicz, a dentist from the Periodent Center for the Treatment and Prevention of Periodontitis in Warsaw, and adds that it is the dentist who is often the first doctor who can contribute to the diagnosis of this disease.

Bleeding gums and their softening as a symptom of leukemia?

Leukemia is a type of malignant tumor of the haematopoietic system that affects the blood cells in the bone marrow. It also leads to characteristic changes in the oral cavity – this is due to the processes that take place in the body of a person suffering from leukemia. Then there is an excessive and abnormal growth of the white blood cell system, including too few platelets, which support the clotting process and stop bleeding. Thrombocytopenia and platelet dysfunction cause uncontrolled bleeding, including from the gums. This is most evident in patients with acute forms of leukemia, particularly acute myeloid leukemia.

– Often there is a sudden, generalized growth and swelling of the gum tissue, which can even infiltrate and cover the crowns of the teeth. A patient’s leukemia gums are painful to touch and red. In addition, they tend to bleed spontaneously, they are also prone to bleeding after mechanical injuries, e.g. when brushing or eating hard food. The patient usually complains that the bleeding does not go away for a long time. The reasons for this are changes in the capillaries and gingival ischemia accompanying leukemia, explains Monika Stachowicz.

Therefore, bleeding gums can be one of the early, important warning signs that will allow for a faster diagnosis. This is important because if we do not start treatment quickly with acute leukemia or if we misdiagnose it, we risk developing life-threatening conditions.

It is worth being aware that a person suffering from leukemia, apart from suspicious changes in the oral cavity, may appear healthy.

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What other oral symptoms might suggest leukemia?

Gum changes aren’t the only symptoms that can be worrying. Leukemia is also characterized by bleeding of the skin and mucous membranes, so in addition, the patient may observe bleeding from the mucous membranes of the tongue (also its pain and burning), mouth or cheeks. In addition, the dentist, during oral checkup, may also notice the pale skin and mucous membranes of the mouth present in anemia, which is a consequence of a developing blood cancer.

Acute forms of leukemia (e.g. acute myeloid leukemia or acute lymphocytic leukemia) may also be indicated by pain in the teeth, temporomandibular joint, jaw and mandible without a dental cause. The performed X-ray examination of the tooth may also suggest the course of the disease, as it shows the atrophy of the alveolar bone and the thinning of the bone.

– All these symptoms in the oral cavity are characteristic of leukemia and may raise the suspicion of a dentist who will refer us to a family doctor and for a blood test, especially when the patient additionally complains of persistent weakness or fever – explains the dentist Monika Stachowicz.

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Diagnosis: leukemia. The role of the dentist in treatment

Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the patient should still visit the dentist’s office, both before treatment, during treatment, and in remission.

Before treating leukemia with cytostatics, it is crucial to eliminate any potential source of infection in the mouth, which may not only weaken the effects of chemotherapy but also be life-threatening. For this reason, the patient should treat any inflammation at the dentist’s office.

– Leukemia, as well as cancer therapy, have a devastating effect on oral health. Such a condition requires not only the care of a hematologist or oncologist, but also the constant care of a dentist. In the case of problems with the gums, also a periodontist specializing in gum diseases – advises Monika Stachowicz and adds that a patient undergoing chemotherapy, due to low immunity, is exposed to more frequent bacterial infections (caries, gum disease, e.g. ulcerative gingivitis), fungal and viral. Teeth can also be damaged during chemotherapy (chemicals destroy enamel).

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Oncological therapy causes mucositis

The most common complication of chemotherapy and radiotherapy that precede bone marrow transplantation is mucositis. This term is used to describe the inflammation of the oral mucosa. According to statistics, this condition occurs in more than 75 percent. patients after bone marrow stem cell transplantation. How is it manifested?

– The patient most often reports pain, erythema and ulceration of the oral mucosa. There may also be disturbances in the work of the salivary glands, resulting in dry mouth, dysgeusia, changes in tooth enamel, enamel and dentin hypoplasia, ecchymosis, necrotic changes and mucosal bleeding. As a result of the disturbed bacterial flora of the oral cavity, the patient is more prone to caries or periodontitis. Painful changes in the oral cavity make it difficult to speak, as well as to take food and fluids, explains Dr. Stachowicz.

Experts estimate that complications in the oral cavity as a result of cancer treatment occur in nearly 40% of patients. patients undergoing chemotherapy, as well as in 80%. patients who have undergone stem cell transplantation.

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Anemia symptoms

Leukemia is also destructive to teeth. How to take care of them?

The numerous and painful complications for the oral cavity and teeth of a person suffering from leukemia mean that visits to the dentist’s office should be more frequent, and the treatment of such a patient should be tailored to his unique needs.

– A patient struggling with leukemia is under special supervision. Any procedures, such as tooth extraction, periodontics or even routine tartar removal, can cause excessive bleeding and difficult healing. They also often require antibiotic cover. That is why proper dental care and proper oral hygiene are so important – explains the expert.

Gingival overgrowth, so common in patients with acute leukemia, promotes more plaque build-up and hinders proper oral hygiene. The solution is to use a special manual toothbrush with very soft rounded bristles at the ends or a sonic toothbrush, which breaks up the bacterial plaque with vibrations. Instead of a thread, the patient can use a low-pressure dental irrigator, which is a better choice for swollen gums. What products will be helpful?

– It is recommended to use a toothpaste with fluoride or xytitol and a mouthwash with chlorhexidine, which reduces inflammation and bleeding of the gums, and also reduces plaque build-up and is bactericidal. During frequent checkups, we also pay attention to the condition of the periodontium and regularly remove plaque. Few people are aware that the good condition of the oral cavity is of great importance in the entire process of oncological treatment of a patient – adds Monika Stachowicz.

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The above advice cannot replace a visit to a specialist. Remember that in case of any health problems, consult a doctor.

About Peter Wilson

In love with technology, with an eye towards smartphones, he does not disdain any activity linked to the Nerd world. TV series, movies, manga, anime, and comics (Marvel addicted) are the order of the day.

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