As I started my first job in dentistry, my mother received a breast cancer diagnosis and suffered horribly with oral side effects from chemotherapy. Her pain from severe dry mouth and mouth sores (oral mucositis) was dismissed by her oncology team as “just part of treatments.” She received no guidance on how to prevent or reduce her discomfort and there were no oral care strategies implemented to prevent long-term damage to her dental health.
Through questioning other cancer survivors, I learned that her experience was not unusual. Survivors were facing increased suffering due to a disconnect between medical and dental professionals. They were receiving inadequate and sometimes inaccurate information that was causing damage to their oral health. Some patients were transferring time, financial hardships, and stress once spent in oncology settings directly into dental settings. It ignited a fire within me to learn more, but I struggled to find trusted resources.
I held onto the passion for what is now called dental oncology throughout my 25+ years as a Registered Dental Hygienist. My desire to help eventually led me to develop a volunteer program at a nearby oncology center, providing information and product samples to those beginning chemotherapy or radiation to the head and neck region. Eventually the sources for donated products diminished and I was forced to discontinue the program. I was confident that this was not just a local concern, but instead affecting a countless number of cancer survivors throughout the world.
I decided it was time to create the type of resource that I longed to find and formed my company, Side Effect Support LLC. Side Effect Support LLC is based in Wisconsin and focuses on prevention and management of oral health conditions caused by cancer and cancer treatments. Our website, www.SideEffectSupport.com, provides free information tailored to both survivors and healthcare providers. Presentations, available for medical and dental professionals, aim to improve collaboration of care.
Our site services hospitals and long-term care facilities by providing bulk quantities of IntelliDent® Toothbrush Shields to protect patients’ toothbrushes from germs and reduce infection risks. Providers can also access a printable script for SalivaMAX®, a supersaturated calcium phosphate rinse used to relieve dry mouth and mouth sores and Orapeutic®, an oral hydrogel wound dressing for non-opioid pain relief. Prepackaged Oral Care Kits are modeled after my volunteer program and are provided by oncology centers, dental offices, or purchased as gifts from our online store. Custom patient care packages can also be created for hospitals or clinics and are often requested by friends or family as a kind gesture for a loved one.
Being mindful of the financial strains often experienced with a cancer diagnosis, our online store offers affordable over-the-counter products to help relieve symptoms while protecting long-term oral health. Having products shipped directly to their door is incredibly valuable during times of low energy and compromised immunity. It is our goal to provide added guidance, comfort and quality of life during the road to recovery and into survivorship!