Did you know that more than ⅓ of all cancer patients develop issues with their oral health during treatment? Side effects can include mouth sores, dry mouth, sensitive gums, infection and jaw pain. It’s important to include your dentist as part of your cancer care team, considering the close connection between oral and overall health. Here are some tips, from the oral health experts at MouthHealthy.org, on how to maintain mouth health before, during and after your cancer treatments.
If your mouth isn’t as healthy as possible before you start your cancer treatment, you may be more prone to infection. In order to evaluate your current dental health, you should see your dentist for an exam, and discuss any dental treatments that may be appropriate before you begin your cancer treatment. These may include fluoride treatments, cavity fillings, removing infected teeth, restoring crowns or bridge work. After visiting your dentist, the best way to achieve and maintain good oral health is by following a good dental hygiene routine. Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and floss once a day to remove plaque between teeth. Avoid using tobacco products and eat a diet rich in healthy foods. Eating foods rich with vitamins and nutrients can help boost your immune system during treatment.
Some of the most common side effects during the course of cancer treatment include mouth sores, dry mouth, sensitive gums and gum disease, jaw pain and infection. You may experience mild or severe side effects that require you to visit your dentist. Before having a dental checkup, it’s important to consult with your cancer care team, especially if you have a port under your skin for receiving medication or feeding. Patients with ports may also be taking anti-blood clotting medications, which can increase bleeding during dental procedures, as well as the risk of infection.
Once you’ve completed treatment, you might experience more dental issues than before. As you work to restore your overall health, don’t forget to pay attention to your oral health. Routine check-ups and cleanings are essential, especially since the side effects of many cancer treatments include tooth decay. Beyond seeing your dentist, following a good oral health routine will help keep any decay at bay. Again, brush twice a day, floss daily, and rinse with a non-alcoholic mouth rinse to reduce the chance of dental decay and infection. Also, avoid tobacco and follow a nutritious diet.