Dental Treatment and Cancer
For patients undergoing chemotherapy there are a number of things that need to be considered prior to undergoing cancer treatment, but one very important consideration is how chemotherapy might negatively affect your mouth. Some of the negative side effects are as follows:
- General discomfort while swallowing, talking or eating.
- Increased risk of infection.
- Dry mouth.
- Inflamed, peeling or swollen tongue.
- Sloughing of gingival tissuesThese negatives will likely be made much worse if you have any preexisting dental issues before chemotherapy starts, and could become dangerous enough that your oncologist may need to end treatment prematurely. As you might imagine, that is not a good thing.
Visit the Dentist
To prevent this from becoming an issue, you should be sure to schedule an appointment with your general dentist as far ahead of beginning chemotherapy as possible. When doing this, be SURE that you are seeking pre-treatment prior to the start of chemo and that you ensure your oncologist and dentist can coordinate a treatment plan for you.
For patients who have already done this, very good, but not everyone can see a dentist prior to treatment. If you are one of those people, don’t worry, but make sure to see a dentist as soon as possible. No matter if you have scheduled pre-treatment or not, though, there are some general things you can expect.
When you first visit your dentist, they will thoroughly examine your mouth so that they can see the state of your oral health. From there, they will develop a treatment plan, if one is needed for you, schedule a thorough cleaning and instruct you on how to properly take care of your mouth to minimize any negative side effects of chemo. It is very important that you follow your dentist’s instructions as faithfully as possible. Your dentist will also contact your oncologist to coordinate your treatment. It is important to communicate any changes in your cancer treatment regimen.
Brush, Floss, and Rinse Regularly
For those who have already done everything previously mentioned, you’re looking good. However, you must still remain vigilant. Remember to keep your mouth moist by drinking plenty of water, sucking (NOT CHEWING) on ice chips, or chewing sugarless gum. Also, remember to keep your teeth, gums and tongue clean by brushing twice a day with a soft toothbrush, flossing gently, using non-alcohol based mouth washes and rinsing your mouth 3 to 4 times a day with salt water. Prescription fluoride toothpastes or rinses will help strengthen your teeth and reduce tooth decay. In cases where your mouth has been part of the radiation field, custom fitted trays for fluoride gel may be fabricated to further protect your teeth.
It is also important to avoid damaging the soft tissues of your mouth; chemotherapy targets rapidly dividing cells, and prevents proper tissue repair. Avoid sharp foods like chips and spicy foods which might irritate your mouth. Also, remember to avoid anything with tobacco or alcohol in it. Try to stick to soft foods which are easy to chew and swallow. Check your mouth for sores daily, and see your dentist if your mouth hurts.