It is helpful to identify and treat dental problems before chemotherapy treatment begins. Gum disease cavities, loose fillings, broken crowns, and other dental problems can become worse during chemotherapy. When the immune system is weak or when white blood cell count is low, the risk of infection increases, and existing oral health issues can worsen. Chemotherapy can also prevent cells from dividing, which slows the healing process in the mouth.
Oral complications of chemotherapy
- Dry mouth
- Easy bleeding in the mouth and ulcers
- Changes in taste
- Inflamed mucous membranes
- Tooth decay
- Gum disease
What you can do about it
- Dry mouth – Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Use fluoride toothpaste. Tell your dentist about your health condition. He or she may recommend or prescribe mouth rinse or saliva-producing medication.
- Easy bleeding and ulcers – Use a soft toothbrush to brush your teeth several times throughout the day, but avoid aggressive brushing. Rinsing your mouth with a mixture of salt water and 3% hydrogen peroxide can assist with healing of any sores in your mouth.
- Changes in taste – This is often a result of dry mouth or damage to the taste buds. After your chemotherapy treatment is complete, your sense of taste may gradually improve in a few months.
- Inflamed mucous membranes – Regularly rinse your mouth throughout the day. Keep your teeth clean, and use a soft-bristle toothbrush. Replace your toothbrush often. Your dentist may recommend a water-soluble lubricating jelly to keep your mouth moist.
- Tooth decay – Gently floss between your teeth and gums daily. Use a soft-bristle toothbrush after every meal to keep your teeth clean. Keep your regularly scheduled dental appointments for examination and cleaning. If you wear dentures, clean them daily and keep them moist.
- Gum disease – Floss gently, but regularly. Your dentist will recommend an antibacterial rinse. Keep your dental appointments.
Although it may be difficult, try to eat regularly and maintain proper nutrition. Avoid junk food and carbonated beverages, which can create additional acid in your mouth, reduce saliva production, and increase the amount of bacteria in your mouth.
Chemotherapy may affect your oral health in other ways. Maintain open communication with your dentist to ensure the issues are properly addressed.
This post is sponsored by Plano, TX dentist Dr. Miranda Lacy.