Cancer patients may experience oral or dental problems during or after cancer treatment. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, four out of 10 patients undergoing chemotherapy may develop oral complications. The risk is higher for patients who undergo hematopoietic stem cell transplants and in those who receive radiation treatments for head and neck cancers.
Oral problems seen in some cancer patients are inflammation, infections, salivary gland dysfunction, dry mouth, difficulty in swallowing or speaking, or loss of taste as well as an increased risk of dental decay. If you’re experiencing these side effects,
- Maintain a daily oral hygiene routine of brushing your teeth with an extra-soft toothbrush after every meal and before bedtime. Floss daily and gently.
- Keep to a regular schedule of professional teeth cleanings and dental visits so that any issues can be identified and addressed as soon as possible.
- Inform your dentist of your cancer diagnosis so that he or she can monitor for infections, abnormal growth, or periodontal disease.
- Your dentist may recommend supplemental high-potency fluoride gels or daily fluoride applications, especially if you have salivary gland dysfunction.
- Avoid mouthwashes containing alcohol.
- Sip water or suck on ice chips to relieve a dry mouth. Your dentist may also recommend a saliva spray, an oral care product for dry mouth such as Biotene, or other medication.