Great strides have been made in the field of cancer treatment, but many of the drugs and procedures used to kill cancer cells have a myriad of side effects on the body. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy damage healthy cells as well, which can leave your teeth vulnerable to infection. If you are newly diagnosed with any form of cancer and will be seeking treatment, you should establish a relationship with a dentist who has experience in providing dental care for cancer patients as soon as possible. This guide will explain dental care before, during and after cancer treatments.
Radiation, Chemo and Dental Problems
Oral cancer patients aren’t the only ones susceptible to dental problems. One of the main issues is that chemo drugs slow the production of saliva, which contains enzymes that are vital to your oral health. If applied to the head or neck area, radiation can cause nerve damage to your teeth. Mouth sores from chemo are common, as are the following symptoms:
- Dry mouth
- Burning, peeling and swelling of the tongue
- Change in taste
- Tooth Decay
However, with some preventative care and the guidance of a professional dentist, most of these side effects are avoidable.
Preparing Your Mouth for Cancer Treatment
If you have any cosmetic dentistry you want, it’s best to take care of them before you begin cancer treatment. Cosmetic dental care for cancer patients during chemo or radiation therapy is much more risky.
- At least two weeks before starting treatment, you should focus on lowering your mouth’s bacterial load. Using mouthwashes with chlorhexidine gluconate and toothpastes without sodium lauryl sulfate can help with this.
- Drink a lot of water and avoid sugary drinks.
Oral Care During and After Cancer Treatment
Seeing your dentist and hygienist on a regular basis for cleanings and examinations is imperative. In the meantime, there are a number of products that can alleviate symptoms and boost your teeth’s defenses against decay:
- Fluoride toothpaste – Prescription high fluoride toothpastes can be applied with a toothbrush, or it can be applied overnight in customized dental trays.
- Fluoride varnish treatment – In some cases, your dentist may recommend that you come in every six months for high fluoride varnish treatment to add an extra layer of protection.
- Electric toothbrushes – If your mouth is too tender to handle an electric brush, use an ultra-soft headed surgical toothbrush to get the job done.
- Dry mouth products – There are special mouthwashes, gels and sprays that can help keep your mouth lubricated and prevent sores from developing.
- Interdental cleaning – Interdental brushes, floss picks, and water picks may be more comfortable than traditional flossing.
- Chewing gum – Chewing gum stimulates saliva production. Look for sugar free options containing xylitol to help with plaque control.
Wekiva Dental Can Help During all Phases of Cancer Treatment
In addition to general and cosmetic dentistry procedures, Dr. Offenback and his associates at Wekiva Dental specialize in providing all kinds of dental care for cancer patients. We are an integral part of helping patients take care of their oral health before, during and after cancer treatment. Whether you’re recovering from treatment or newly diagnosed, contact us at 407-869-7333 to set up a consultation so that we can help keep you smiling during this difficult time.