The World Health Organisation definition of Palliative care is “an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.”
The ultimate goal of palliative care is to relieve pain and other symptoms, but it may be offered at the same time as treatments that aim to cure a disease. Dental treatments can be an important part of supportive care.
Palliative care is focused on managing symptoms and keeping patients comfortable and will vary from patient to patient based on their symptoms. An appropriate treatment and care plan can be implemented after examining the patient and talking with their doctors or health care team.
In some cases, home remedies may provide patients with some relief. For patients with mucositis, drinking more water, the use of ice chips can give a soothing effect or eating a bland, soft diet. Patients with dry mouth may be advised to sip water throughout the day or use an artificial saliva and to avoid the use of sweet snacks to try to promote saliva production.
Prescription medicines may be necessary. Pain medications may be useful for patients with mucositis, and anti-fungal medications may help resolve cases of candidiasis.
Dental restorations such as fillings, may be required for patients who have developed dental caries or have broken or fractured teeth. Where decay is significant and an abscess has formed, the tooth may need to be extracted.
Palliative dental care can help relieve the oral side effects of a serious disease, allowing patients to eat, drink and speak as comfortably as possible.