Cancer Treatment and Oral Health

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016, 9:16 pm

When patients are faced with cancer treatment it is understandable that their oral health is not something they spend much time thinking about. However, it is important that your dentist know your health status and about any future treatments. Dental and oral changes may occur before, during and after cancer treatment.

Prior to Treatment

Continue to maintain good oral hygiene routines including brushing and flossing. Avoid mouthrinses that contain alcohol. Your dentist may recommend fluoride therapies, xylitol products or products used for dry mouth. It is important to treat any condition causing pain and/or swelling or any problem that could risk infection during your treatment. 

Common Side Effects of Treatment

Dry Mouth – Decreased saliva flow, also called xerostomia, is a common side effect of many medications and can occur during cancer treatment. Sip water frequently and  use mouth moisturizing agents, available as rinses and lozenges, to keep the tissues of the mouth moist. Teeth will be more susceptible to decay so fluoride treatment may be suggested. Avoid spicy or acidic foods, alcohol mouthrinses and sugary foods.

Oral Pain - Mouth sores can occur in the mouth and throat. There are prescription rinses that can help alleviate the discomfort. Homemade mouthrinse recipes may be provided by your cancer treatment center. The same foods that irritate dry mouth will also irritate mouth sores. Talk to your health care professional if pain is severe.

Yeast Infections – Fungal infections of the mouth will appear as white or red changes on the tongue or inside  of the mouth, bad breath and changes in taste. Anti-fungal medication may be necessary along with maintaining good brushing and flossing habits.

Jaw Bone Health – Radiation treatment to the jaw area and some cancer medications can affect bone health. Your dentist and treating physician can work together on a treatment plan.

Managing oral health during serious medical treatments might seem unimportant but healthy teeth and gums are important for good nutrition and reducing the risk of inflammation from gum disease. Please keep us informed of your overall health and any treatments you may be going through that could affect your oral health. Please contact Wilbanks Smile Center at 706-391-8777 to schedule your visit.


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