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A few years ago, I realized that I was thinking about dental care all wrong. Instead of listening carefully to my dentist and making the necessary changes, I assumed that he was ultimately responsible for making sure that my teeth stayed healthy. Unfortunately, I developed a few serious cavities because I failed to properly brush and floss my teeth, and I knew that it was my fault. I decided to start taking notes at my dental checkups and carefully abiding by the dentist's orders. The difference was almost miraculous. This blog is all about working with your dentist to improve your result.

Working With My Dentist

4 Things Parents Need To Know About Thrombocytopenia

Siiri Puro

Children undergoing chemotherapy may experience many complications. Some of these complications, like hair loss, are common knowledge, while others may surprise both children and their parents. One lesser-known complication of chemotherapy is thrombocytopenia. Thrombocytopenia can have serious effects on your child's oral health. Here are five things parents need to know about this complication.

What is thrombocytopenia?

Thrombocytopenia is a condition that occurs when your child's platelet level drops below normal levels. Platelets are blood cells that play a key role in the clotting process; without enough platelets, your child will bleed more easily and the bleeding will be harder to stop. This can have effects throughout their body, and their mouth is no exception.

Why does it occur?

Platelets have a very short life span; they only live for around ten days. New platelets are constantly produced in the bone marrow, so in a healthy child, the short life span of platelets isn't a big deal. However, chemotherapy drugs can damage your child's bone marrow, and damaged bone marrow can't make as many platelets as it otherwise could. The effects of this damage are seen fairly soon after chemotherapy begins: seven to 14 days after chemotherapy begins, platelets will reach their lowest levels.

What oral health effects can it have?

Thrombocytopenia has some obvious effects on your child, like easy bruising and heavy bleeding after a skinned knee or other minor injury, but their mouth is also affected. When you child brushes or flosses their teeth, their gums will bleed easily, and this bleeding can be hard to control. If your child is already reluctant to keep up their oral hygiene routine, excessive gum bleeding can easily make them abandon tooth brushing entirely.

Not brushing or flossing can have serious oral health effects. Tooth decay is the most well-known consequence of poor oral hygiene, but problems like gum disease, infections such as abscesses, and tooth loss can also occur. Fortunately, with the help of a dentist, these problems are preventable.

How can dentists help?

Your child's dentist can help by suggesting ways to maintain an acceptable level or oral hygiene without causing excessive bleeding. If your child's regular toothbrush makes their gums bleed, you may be told to get them an extra-soft-bristled toothbrush, instead. If even the softest toothbrushes cause bleeding, the dentist may recommend using a toothette. Toothettes are essentially small sponges on sticks and are gentler than bristled toothbrushes.

If toothettes cause bleeding, the dentist may recommend having your child rinse their mouth with a baking soda and salt solution after their meals, instead of brushing. This method is not ideal, but it's better than nothing.

Your child's dentist may advise against using dental floss. This is because floss can cut the gums, and for children with thrombocytopenia, this can be dangerous.

How can parents help?

Since even gentle oral hygiene routines can cause bleeding, make sure to monitor your child while they're cleaning their teeth. If they start bleeding, apply pressure to the affected gum tissue, and if the bleeding doesn't stop after 10 or 15 minutes, take your child to their family doctor for further assistance.

It's also important to ensure that your child knows that their illness is the reason why they can't brush and floss normally. You should emphasize the importance of brushing and flossing again once their platelet levels have returned to normal to set your child up for a lifetime of good oral hygiene.

Thrombocytopenia is a lesser-known, yet serious complication of chemotherapy. If your child is undergoing chemotherapy and is suffering from bleeding gums, they may have this complication. Take your child to a dentist, such as, for help managing this side effect.