Cancer treatment therapy and Dental complications
While chemotherapy and radiation therapy help treat cancer, it can also cause other things to happen in your body called side effects.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to treat cancer. Radiation Therapy is when radiation is used to treat cancer. These methods kill cancer cells, but they may also harm normal cells, including cells in the mouth. Side effects include problems with your teeth and gums; the soft, moist lining of your mouth; and the glands that make saliva.
It’s important to know that side effects in the mouth can be serious. The side effects can hurt and make it difficult to talk and swallow.
- Painful mouth and gums
- Dry Mouth
- Burning, peeling or swelling tongue
- Change in taste
It is important to see your dentist before any chemo or radiation therapy. If you go to the dentist before cancer treatment begins, they can help prevent serious mouth problems. Side effects often happen because an individual’s mouth is not healthy before cancer therapy starts. Dental care providers will provide the following services.
- Take X-rays
- Take care of mouth problems
- Show you how to take care of your mouth to prevent side effects
- The dentist will do a complete exam.
- What can you do to keep my mouth healthy?
- Check your teeth
To avoid dry mouth symptoms and complications during treatment
- Use sugarless gum or sugar-free hard candy
- Use a saliva substitute to help moisten your mouth
- Drink a lot of water
- Suck ice chips
To prevent plaque build up and different fungal or bacterial infections, clean your mouth, tongue, and gums.
- Brush your teeth, gums, and tongue with an extra-soft toothbrush after every meal and at bedtime. If brushing hurts, soften the bristles in warm water.
- Use a fluoride toothpaste
- Don’t use mouthwashes with alcohol in them
- Floss your teeth gently every day. If your gums bleed and hurt, avoid the areas that are bleeding or sore, but keep flossing your other teeth
- Dentures that don’t fit well can cause problems. Talk to your cancer doctor or dentist about your dentures
- If your mouth is sore, watch what you eat and drink
- Choose foods that are good for you and easy to chew and swallow
- Take small bites of food, chew slowly, and sip liquids with your meals
- Eat soft, moist foods such as cooked cereals, mashed potatoes, and scrambled eggs
- If you have trouble swallowing, soften your food with gravy, sauces, broth, yogurt or other liquids
- Sipping liquids with your meals will make eating easier
Remember to stay away from:
- Sharp, crunchy foods, like taco chips, that could scrape or cut your mouth
- Foods that are hot, spicy, or high in acid, like citrus fruits and juices, which can irritate your mouth
- Sugary foods, like candy or soda, that could cause cavities
- Toothpicks, because they can cut your mouth
- All tobacco products
- Alcoholic drinks
Cherise Britt RDH