Cancer Treatment & Your Oral Health

Of the 1.2 million Americans diagnosed with cancer each year, approximately 400,000 will develop oral complications from their treatment.  When killing cancer cells, treatment may also harm normal cells. Healthy cells in the mouth are particularly vulnerable. Complications can make it hard to eat (which promotes poor nutrition), talk, swallow, and increase the likelihood of an infection.

How can oral complications affect my cancer treatment?

Oral complications of cancer treatment can be so debilitating that patients may tolerate only lower, less effective doses of cancer drugs, may postpone scheduled treatments, or may discontinue the treatment entirely. Oral complications can be the source of infections that interfere with cancer therapy and threaten survival.

What are the side effects of cancer treatment?

  • Dry mouth
  • Increased tooth decay
  • Loss of taste
  • Infections
  • Jaw stiffness
  • Painful mouth and gums
  • Burning, peeling or swelling tongue

How can I keep my mouth healthy?

The first step is to see a dentist before you start. Once treatment begins, it is important to look in your mouth every day for sores and other changes. If you find something unusual, call us immediately. The following tips can help prevent and treat a sore mouth:

  • Keep your mouth moist.
  • Drink a lot of water.
  • Suck on ice chips.
  • Use sugarless gum or sugar-free hard candy.
  • Use a saliva substitute.
  • Brush your teeth, gums and tongue with a soft toothbrush after every meal and at bedtime.
  • Use a prescription strength fluoride toothpaste at least once a day.
  • Avoid mouthwash that contains alcohol. We Recommend Listerine Zero
  • Floss gently every day. If your gums bleed and hurt, avoid the areas that are bleeding or sore.
  • If you get sores in your mouth, rinse your mouth several times a day with a solution of  ¼ teaspoon baking soda and 1/8 teaspoon salt in one cup of warm water ,
  • Avoid hard, crunchy and spicy foods, alcohol and tobacco.

If you are undergoing cancer treatment, please let us know and we will personalize a prevention plan for you!

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