Cancer treatments and oral health

Cancer treatment is extremely complex and sophisticated.

Unfortunately, cancer treatments have some side-effects as well, such as hair loss, nausea, etc. What people are usually unacquainted with is the fact that cancer treatments also often trigger mouth complications. The complete cancer treatment then also becomes affected with the complications.

The mouth related complications caused by cancer treatments can be as minor as dry mouth to more complex life-threatening infections. The basic reasons for such infections can be chemotherapy, blood and marrow transplantation and head & neck radiations which are components of the cancer treatment. The oral complications can be so severe that some cancer patients have to postpone their planned treatments or even suspend their treatment completely.

These are complications which can arise from chemotherapy and radiation treatments:

  • Viral, fungal and bacterial infections which are caused due to the damage to the mucosa, xerostomia or myelosuppression
  • Ulceration and inflammation of the mucous membranes
  • The abilities of taste, eating, swallowing and speaking can be affected and weakened
  • Reduced, thickened or deficient salivary flow or salivary gland dysfunction
  • The sensitivity and awareness of taste weakens, from distasteful to tasteless
  • Eating difficulties leading to poor nutrition
  • Distorted tooth development, skeletal development in children and craniofacial growth
  • A toothache-like continual and deep aching
  • Continual oral bleeding

Cancer patients who are given minimal treatment of myelosuppressive or nonmyelosuppressive chemotherapy are less vulnerable to oral complications. However, patients who receive stomatotoxic chemotherapy and patients who go through the neck and head radiation are more likely to suffer from oral complications. So they must consult some  Oral Health Care Specialist for Oral Health Tips for Proper Dental Care which will help them in this situtation. 

The oral complications which result from cancer treatments may only continue during treatment,  however, some of them can persevere for years.

Pretreatment oral care

It is prudent and advisable that a cancer patient should undergo an oral evaluation prior to the initiation of the cancer treatment. The benefits of a pretreatment oral care are:

  • It lets the dentist to recognize and execute the treatment for any infections and complications existing at the time
  • Future complications which are likely to arise can be controlled effectively and the risks can be minimized
  • Facilitates the patient to complete the entire cancer treatment without any disruption
  • Oral pain can be diminished or at least reduced
  • Oral infections which could cause more serious systematic infections can be minimized and controlled
  • Nutrition can be maintained by controlling the oral infections affecting nutrition
  • Problem of bone necrosis can be eliminated or at least reduced
  • Quality of life of the patient can be improved
  • Cost of care can be significantly decreased

How you can prevent such oral complications?

  • Brush teeth properly twice a day after every meal
  • Floss teeth daily
  • Use fluoride gel
  • Mouthwashes which contain alcohol should be avoided
  • Use baking soda with a salt solution according to the prescription of your dentist
  • Exercising of the muscles of jaw should be done at least 3 times a day
  • Gum, sweets, soda and other such items should be avoided
  • Avoid toothpicks, tobacco products, spicy and acidic foods