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CANCER TREATMENT & ORAL HEALTH

Cancer treatments also can affect oral health. If possible, please come in to see us before beginning treatment to ensure that your mouth is healthy and, if necessary, prescribe treatments to help you maintain good oral health. You may be surprised to know that it is important that we are kept up to date regarding the medications you are taking because many can affect your dental treatments. It may be helpful for us to speak with your Physician and or Oncologist when planning your treatment.

Many medications you take—both those prescribed by your doctor and the ones you buy on your own—can affect your oral health.  The most common side effect of medications is dry mouth. Saliva helps keep food from collecting around your teeth and neutralizes the acids produced by plaque. Saliva is the mouth’s primary defense against tooth decay and maintains the health of the soft and hard tissues in the mouth. Saliva washes away food and other debris, neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth and provides disease-fighting substances throughout the mouth, offering first-line protection against microbial invasion or overgrowth that might lead to disease.  The acids can damage the hard surfaces of your teeth. Dry mouth increases your risk for tooth decay. Your soft oral tissues—gums, cheek lining, tongue—can be affected by medications as well. Some of the common problems associated with dry mouth include a constant sore throat, burning sensation, cracks in the lips or corners of the mouth, trouble speaking, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness or dry nasal passages.  Dry mouth can even make it difficult to wear dentures.

It is important for you to know that we can provide excellent treatment recommendations to greatly ease many of the bothersome and uncomfortable oral symptoms you may encounter with various chemotherapeutic & medication regimens.  Please do not hesitate to call us with any questions you may have before or while undergoing treatment.

The following tips may help with the management of dry mouth and the prevention of dental problems:

Call us at least two weeks before starting radiation treatment or chemotherapy to check the health of your mouth and teeth.

Brush your teeth at least four times a day with a soft-bristle toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Soak the brush in warm water to make the bristles even softer.

Floss gently once a day.

Rinse your mouth four to six times a day, especially after meals, with a solution of salt and baking soda (a half teaspoon of salt and half teaspoon of baking soda in one cup of warm water).

Drink sips of water throughout the day, and use artificial saliva to moisten the mouth.

Avoid mouthwashes and other dental products that contain alcohol. We can recommend appropriate products for each patient’s unique symptoms.

Use a cool mist humidifier, especially at night.

In addition, we may prescribe a fluoride gel to apply at bedtime, prescription medication to increase saliva production, or rinses to fight infections in the mouth.

Consider the following tips for eating with a dry mouth:

Drink at least eight cups of water a day. Carrying a bottle of water may help you drink enough.

Avoid alcohol, drinks with caffeine (such as coffee, tea, and cola), and acidic juices.

Eat soft, moist foods that are cool or at room temperature.

Moisten dry foods with broth, sauces, butter, or milk.

Avoid dry, coarse, or hard foods.

Avoid acidic or spicy foods that burn the mouth.

Do not smoke or chew tobacco.

Avoid sticky, sugary foods and drinks.


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