Cancer & Oral Health

Patients who undergo cancer treatment often have adverse effects on there teeth, gums, salivary glands and other oral tissues. Patients have had to stop their cancer treatment because of these adverse effects. An exam by your dentist prior to cancer therapy is recommended.

Side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments on the oral cavity:

  • Mouth sore (ulcerations)
  • Pain in the mouth
  • Tender gums
  • Dry mouth (xerostomia)
  • Susceptiblity to oral and systemic infections
  • Tooth decay
  • Burning Tongue or swelling
  • Taste alteration
  • Difficulty eating, swallowing, speaking
  • Malnutrition
  • Jaw stiffness

You can learn more about Oral Cancer by visiting the American Dental Association.

Before and after care:

  • Schedule dental checkup and cleaning at least 2 weeks prior to treatment
  • Twice daily brushing with ADA approved fluoride toothpaste
  • Floss once daily (Do not injure the gums)
  • Fluoride trays or rinses may be prescribed
  • Use of 1 cup of water and  1/4 teaspoon baking soda and 1/8 teaspoon salt rinse followed by plain water rinse (3xday)
  • Dry mouth saliva substitutes (sugar free gum, sip water, artificial saliva substitutes like BIOTENE)
  • Eat balanced diet
  • Avoid tobacco and alcohol

Throughout your cancer treatment it is important to maintain good oral health. This includes professional dental cleanings. Be sure and discuss with your physician when would be the best time to have your dentist clean your teeth and whether you should take antibiotics with the cleaning. Some chemotherapuetic agents affect your immune system and require you to schedule your dental visits accordingly.