complications that affect the mouth, according to
the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial
Research. These mild to severe side effects can
include mouth sores, infection, dry mouth, sensitive
gums and jaw pain.
Your mouth health is an important part of your
overall health, so make your dentist part of your
cancer care team. If you don’t have a regular dentist,
use the ADA Find-A-Dentist tool to search for an
ADA member dentist in your area.
How Cancer Affects Your MouthCancer and
its treatments, like chemotherapy, can weaken
your immune system. If your mouth is not as
healthy as possible prior to your cancer treatment,
you may be more susceptible to infection.
If the infection is serious enough, it can delay your
In addition, radiation therapy, especially in the
area of the head and neck, can damage salivary
glands which can cause thick, sticky saliva and
extreme dry mouth. A dry mouth can increase
your chances of tooth decay and infection.
Your 3-Step Cancer Action Plan
Maintaining your mouth at its best health before,
during and after cancer treatment could help lessen
some side effects and allow you to focus on your overall
healing. Here's what to do during each phase of
1. Taking Care of Your Teeth Before Treatment
If your mouth is not as healthy as possible prior to your
cancer treatment, you may be more susceptible to
infection. If the infection is serious enough, it can delay
treatment. Here are some dental health tips to
consider before undergoing cancer treatment:
a. Visit Your Dentist
Your dentist can evaluate your dental
health and discuss which treatment options you should
consider prior to starting cancer treatment. By treating
areas of concern you may reduce possible dental
side effects associated with chemotherapy and radiation.
Some treatment options may include fluoride
treatments to prevent cavities, filling existing cavities,
treating gum disease, removing infected
teeth or restoring crowns or bridge work to ensure you
will be able to chew your food. Brush RegularlyBrush
twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. You can soak
your extra-soft toothbrush in warm water to make
it softer, and don’t forget to brush your tongue!
Floss once a day. This helps remove plaque
between teeth. If your gums are sore or bleeding, be
gentle and avoid those areas, but floss in between the
rest of your teeth.
c. Don’t Use Tobacco
Tobacco products are harsh on your body – especially
your mouth health.
Stopping the use of tobacco may help your body heal faster.
d. Eat Nutritious Foods
Eating healthy foods rich with
vitamins and nutrients can help boost your
immune system. Your individual nutrition and calorie
needs depend on your age, gender, level of physical
activity and other health factors. According to
MyPlate, a website from the Center for Nutrition Policy
and Promotion, an agency of the U.S. Department
of Agriculture, a healthy diet should include:
Fruits and vegetables, grains, low-fat or fat-free dairy,
and protein such as lean beef, skinless poultry and fish.
Vary your protein choices to also include eggs, beans,
peas and legumes. Eat at least eight ounces of seafood
e.Rinse Your Mouth Often
This will help keep food and debris off of your teeth
and gums. Avoid rinses that have alcohol in them.
Rinsing often, along with regular brushing and
flossing, may help to reduce the chance of dental
decay and infection. Rinsing is also helpful after
vomiting to keep the acids from damaging the enamel
on your teeth. You may also want to reduce eating
citrus fruit or other high acid foods.
Rinsing solution ideas from the National Institutes of Health:
-1 teaspoon of salt in 4 cups of water
-1 teaspoon of baking soda in 1 cup (8 ounces of water)
-One half teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons baking soda
in 4 cups of water
2. Taking Care of Your Teeth During Treatment
During the course of your cancer treatment you may
experience mild to severe side effects. Be sure to consult
with your cancer care team prior to dental checkups,
especially if you have a port under your skin for
receiving medication or feeding. This is important
because patients with a port may also take
anti-blood clotting medications, which can increase
bleeding during dental and medical procedures and the
risk of infection.
Below are some of the most common side effects
- Mouth Sores
- Dry Mouth
- Sensitive gums
- Gum Disease.
3.Taking Care of Your Teeth After Treatment
After cancer treatment, you may find yourself
experiencing some dental issues or simply needing a
regular checkup. As you're working toward your best
health, don't forget to take care of your mouth. After
all, it is the gateway to the rest of your body. Steps
in taking care of your mouth after Cancer treatment is the
same as step number 1.