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Speech Therapy and Dental Care

Recovering from cancer treatment can bring new challenges to your life, including difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) and problems with your teeth. Our whole-person approach includes specialized speech therapy and dental care, so you get relief. Our offerings help many people feel more like their old selves again.

Our Approach to Head and Neck Cancer Speech Therapy and Dental Health

Our speech therapists help many patients overcome swallowing problems and avoid the need for a permanent feeding tube. And our dental health expert helps preserve your smile.

Our approach includes:

Highly Skilled Therapists

Cedars-Sinai is home to therapists who specialize in helping head and neck cancer patients overcome difficulty speaking and swallowing. Our team also includes therapists who specialize in voice problems.

Dental and Mouth Care Expertise

You have access to all the latest care techniques. Our team includes a world-renowned dentist specializing in head and neck cancer. Our expert's contributions to the field include developing care guidelines for preventing and treating dental health complications.

Coordinated Care

You receive services at precisely the right time, thanks to our tumor board. This group includes more than 20 head and neck cancer experts who meticulously plan your care. And if your needs change, we are quick to modify therapies to meet them. Read more about our head and neck cancer tumor board.

Range of Services

Dental care and speech therapy are some of the many ways we support you during your cancer care journey. You may also benefit from physical therapy or emotional support. Find out more about supportive care and survivorship for head and neck cancer.

Speech and Swallow Therapy for Head and Neck Cancer Patients

Cancer treatments and cancer itself can make swallowing difficult and affect the way you talk. Our speech therapists get to the source of the problem with sophisticated testing, which may include a modified barium swallow. We then tailor therapies to help you regain the highest level of functioning.

Successful swallowing is the result of muscles in your mouth, tongue and top of your throat all working together. After cancer treatment, these muscles might not work as they should. Swallow therapy helps retrain them so you can learn to swallow again.

Problems we treat with swallow therapy include:

  • Coughing
  • Choking on food or saliva
  • Dysphagia
  • Sore throat

We help you overcome these challenges with therapies that may include:

  • Exercises to help strengthen the muscles that help you chew and swallow
  • Recommendations for safe swallowing techniques, such as sitting or holding your head a certain way when you eat
  • Nutrition tips, such as drinking thick liquids or eating soft foods to make swallowing easier

If cancer treatments are affecting your ability to speak, speech therapy can help. We use a variety of techniques to help you communicate with others.

Problems we treat with speech therapy include:

  • Strained or muffled voice
  • Difficulty moving your lips, tongue or jaw that makes it difficult to pronounce words
  • Changes in the pitch or intensity of your voice
  • Shortness of breath when speaking

Your care may include:

  • Exercises to strengthen your voice or ability to pronounce words
  • Techniques for coping with speech problems, such as slowing down your speech and reducing background noise
  • Tools to help you communicate if you can no longer use your voice, including text-to-speech apps and wearable devices that help you speak through your windpipe (esophagus)

Faces of Cedars-Sinai: Speech Therapist Heather Thompson

Meet speech therapist Heather Thompson! Heather has worked at Cedars-Sinai for 7 years, helping ALS and head and neck cancer patients communicate before, during, and after surgery, radiation, and other treatments. Learn more about her life inside and outside the medical center.

Head and Neck Cancer Dental Health Services

Treatments such as radiation therapy can interfere with your ability to produce saliva. And when your mouth does not have enough saliva, you're at risk for infections and tooth decay. Read more about radiation therapy for head and neck cancer.

Our dental health expert works with you before and after radiation therapy to minimize your risk of complications. We also care for patients experiencing dental health complications from chemotherapy and other cancer treatments.

Specialized Dental Care Before Treatment

We perform a dental exam to make sure your teeth and gums are as healthy as possible. Once you start treatment, it may be difficult or unsafe for you to have dental work. If you have problems such as chipped or unhealthy teeth, we treat them.

Dental Care After Treatment

We deliver specialized care for side effects of cancer treatments, which may include:

  • Saliva substitutes for dry mouth
  • Fluoride treatments to prevent cavities, especially if you are having difficulty brushing your teeth
  • Exercises to relieve jaw stiffness
  • Oral care products, including alcohol-free mouthwash, that are gentler on your teeth and gums

Have Questions or Need Help?

To make an appointment or refer a patient, call or send a message to the Head and Neck Cancer care team. You can also have us call you back at your convenience.

Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Pacific Time (U.S.)
Available 24 hours a day