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What You Need to Know about Chemotherapy and Your Mouth

January 22, 2016

smiling chemotherapy patientChemotherapy has a number of well-known side effects including fatigue, nausea, muscle pain or weakness, and hair loss. What patients don’t always realize is that cancer treatments also affect their oral health. Like many other systemic diseases that are intricately linked to oral health, caring for your smile throughout chemotherapy improves your overall health during care. The expert team at Piney Point Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery is happy to help you care for your smile throughout chemotherapy.

Oral Health Side Effects of Cancer Treatment

Chemotherapy drugs target and kill active cells, those that are multiplying. This is how they are used to treat cancer, but the drugs are unable to distinguish between healthy and cancerous cells. Chemotherapy treatments may kill healthy cells including those in the mouth. Additionally, nausea related to treatment leads to vomiting allowing stomach acid to damage tooth enamel. Some of the common oral health effects of cancer treatment include:

  • Pain or inflammation in mouth and gums leading to appetite loss
  • Dry mouth
  • Itching, swelling, or peeling soft tissue and the tongue
  • Change in taste
  • Foul breath
  • Infection

Your Dentist’s Role in Chemotherapy

About one month before beginning chemotherapy, patients should visit the dentist. During this appointment, we examine your smile, address current oral health concerns, and create a dental care plan. Throughout cancer treatment, take special care of your oral health, and contact your dentist right away if you notice oral health concerns. Additionally, denture wearers should discuss the possible discomfort or changes in fit that may occur during treatment.

Keep Your Smile Healthy During Cancer Treatment

While your dentist is here to support you throughout dental care, it’s important to brush and floss regularly and pay special attention to your diet. Follow these tips to maintain optimal oral health throughout cancer treatment:

  • Drink plenty of water, chew sugar free gum, or use saliva substitute to avoid the effects of dry mouth and don’t use mouth rinses with alcohol as this could further dry your mouth.
  • Use fluoride tooth paste and an extra-soft bristled toothbrush to clean teeth, tongue, and gums at least twice each day and between meals if possible.
  • Eat nutritious foods that are easy to chew and swallow, and take small bites. Avoid crunchy, acidic, and sugary foods.
  • Do not smoke tobacco or consume alcohol during cancer treatment.

Care for Your Smile and Whole Body Health

Take care of your oral and overall health throughout cancer treatment. Before beginning chemotherapy, contact Piney Point Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. We’ll develop an in-office and homecare plan to preserve your smile throughout treatment.

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