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Caring for Your Teeth During Cancer Treatment

If you are going through cancer treatment, you know how much they can impact various areas of your body. Your teeth and gums are no exception; some of the side effects of chemotherapy, radiation, and other types of cancer treatments can be hard on your mouth. During this time, it’s important to look out for your comfort as well as your medical needs. Since healthy teeth and gums can contribute to better overall health, it’s important to learn how to care for your teeth and gums during cancer treatment.

Side Effects of Cancer Treatments

Some of the side effects of cancer treatment that can affect the mouth include bleeding or swollen gums, dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, sores in the mouth, increased cavities, and problems with tasting food. All of these can make it difficult to maintain good oral hygiene, but not having good oral hygiene can make them worse.

Your Dentist Can Help

If you have time before you begin cancer treatment, it’s a good idea to see your dentist so he or she can help by doing some treatments that can improve your comfort level. For example, if you need any dental work done, it’s best to have it done prior to starting chemo or radiation. If you have braces or other orthodontic appliances, they should be removed prior to treatment. Also, if you have any teeth that can’t be treated, consider having them extracted to avoid problems (such as infections or pain) later.

Be Gentle With Your Mouth

Your mucus membranes will be under increased stress during chemo, and this can make regular oral hygiene painful. Get a soft toothbrush and brush gently. Also, be careful when flossing; you don’t want to snap the floss into your gums. Ask your dentist about using a fluoride mouthwash, which can help minimize cavities. Avoid using products that contain alcohol, because these can further irritate the mouth. You can suck on sugarfree candy or chew sugarfree gum if mouth dryness is an issue.

Talk to your dentist about your treatments and any side effects that are bothering your mouth, teeth, or gums. He or she might have tips for you to try while you are going through your cancer treatment.

Creative Commons image by Kyrre Gjerstad.


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