Chemotherapy and oral health problems

Patients diagnosed with cancer may be recommended radiation or chemotherapy. While these two treatments treat cancer, they can also cause a lot of damage to your general and oral health. Today we will find out more about some of the chemotherapy’s side effects on your teeth and mouth.

The oral complications of chemotherapy depend upon the drugs, the dosage and the way your body reacts to them. Chemotherapy drugs kill cancer cells, but they also harm healthy cells, and the cells in your mouth are no exception. As side effects we can mention:

  • Dry mouth;
  • Mouth ulcers;
  • Taste changes;
  • Mouth infections. Chemotherapy reduces the number of white blood cells in your blood. These cells fight infections, so when they are low your body is not fighting infection properly. The most common mouth infection is called thrush. It appears as white patches, or a white coating, over the lining of the mouth and tongue.
  • Peeling or burning of the tongue.

The side effects of chemotherapy can make it hard to eat, talk and swallow. And your body is more vulnerable, so you are more likely to get an infection.

It is very important to see a dentist before beginning this cancer treatment. They will help you get your teeth and gums in the healthiest possible condition. In case you need dental treatment during chemotherapy, your dentist will recommend what is best for you. Patients who have good dental health before treatment have a lower risk of these side effects. Oral health problems from chemotherapy usually go away soon after treatment ends. But they may also last for a couple of weeks or months after.

Even if you see a dentist, you must pay attention to your mouth and teeth at home. It is important to check every single day your mouth to see if there are sores or any changes in your mouth.

In order to keep your mouth moist you should drink a lot of water, you should use sugarless gum or sugar-free hard candy. In case your mouth is too dry, your doctor will recommend a saliva substitute to help moisten your mouth.

In order to clean your mouth, tongue and gums, Dr Arhiri recommends you some tips:

  • Floss daily.
  • Brush your teeth, gums and tongue with an extra-soft toothbrush after mealtime and at bed time.
  • Choose a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Rinse your mouth several times per day with a solution of salt and water.
  • Patients who have protheses must clean it using a denture brush, baking soda and water. The denture should be held in an antibacterial solution for 30 minutes and then rinsed with water.
  • Avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol because they can irritate your mouth.

More advices for cancer patients:

  • Avoid crunchy foods that cut scrap your mouth.
  • Avoid foods that are spicy or high in acid (such as oranges, grapefruits), which can irritate your mouth.
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking.
  • Drink at least 1.5 litres of water and tea a day.

As a conclusion, if you are a cancer diagnosed patient and you are recommended chemotherapy or radiation therapy, visit your dentist before proceed with the treatment. Your teeth and gums must be as healthy as possible in order to avoid the side effects. For related questions, you can call Dr. Arhiri. 610.647.7611 is our phone number.