Chemotherapy is a powerful weapon in the fight against cancer. But like a lot of other strong medications and procedures, chemo has side effects. Many people don’t realize that chemotherapy can potentially affect the health of teeth and gums.
In this post, we’ll discuss the impact of chemotherapy on oral health and offer some tips on how to protect your teeth and gums during treatment.
How Does Chemotherapy Affect Oral Health?
Chemotherapy drugs target rapidly dividing cells, which include cancer cells. Unfortunately, it can also damage some of the healthy cells in your body. Your mouth is full of rapidly dividing cells, such as those found in the lining of your cheeks, gums, and tongue. As a result, chemotherapy can cause a number of oral health problems.
- Dry Mouth: Chemotherapy can reduce the production of saliva, leading to a dry mouth. This can make it difficult to chew, swallow, and speak, and can increase the risk of tooth decay.
- Mouth Sores: Chemotherapy can cause painful sores in your mouth, which can make it difficult to eat and maintain proper oral hygiene.
- Tooth Decay: The combination of dry mouth and a weakened immune system can increase your risk of developing tooth decay during chemotherapy.
- Gum Disease: Chemotherapy can cause your gums to become more susceptible to infection, which can lead to gum disease.
- Bone Loss: Some chemotherapy drugs can cause bone loss, which can affect the health and stability of your teeth.
- Trismus: Also known as lockjaw, trismus is a common side effect of chemotherapy. It can be uncomfortable, but this side effect is temporary.
- Difficulty Swallowing: Dysphagia can be also be a side effect of chemotherapy. It can be exacerbated by or contribute to dry mouth.
How to Protect Your Teeth and Gums During Chemotherapy
Taking care of your oral health is essential during chemotherapy. By following this advice and the advice of your dentist and doctors, you can help to prevent dental problems and maintain a healthy smile.
Visit your Dentist Before and During Treatments
Make sure to inform your dentist about your chemotherapy treatment and let them know about any changes in your oral health.
It is a good idea to see your dentist before beginning chemotherapy. Your dentist can assess your oral health and address any existing problems, such as tooth decay or gum disease, which could worsen during treatment. Regular dental check-ups are also important during chemotherapy, as your dentist can monitor your oral health and provide advice on how to manage any side effects.
Maintain Good Oral Hygiene
Brushing and flossing daily are crucial for keeping your teeth and gums healthy during chemotherapy. While good oral care is always essential, because of the risk of tooth decay and gum disease, it is even more important while receiving chemotherapy treatments. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush, and be sure to be gentle when brushing to avoid irritating your gums or causing bleeding.
If you experience mouth sores, consider using a non-alcoholic, fluoride-containing mouthwash to help protect your teeth. Talk about this and any other side effects with your doctor or dentist; they may be able to help.
First and foremost, it is crucial to stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water can help to combat dry mouth, which is a common side effect of chemotherapy. You can also try sugar-free gum or lozenges to stimulate saliva production.
Eating a well-balanced diet can help to support your oral health during chemotherapy. Focus on foods that are soft and easy to chew, and avoid sugary, acidic, or spicy foods that could irritate your mouth.
Oral Health Issues After Chemotherapy
Your overall health and well-being are the top priority during chemotherapy, and maintaining good oral health is an essential part of that. Taking the right precautions and working closely with your dentist can go a long way in helping to protect your teeth and gums.
If you experience dental problems during or after chemotherapy, don’t hesitate to contact our office. We can recommend treatments and solutions to help manage your symptoms and protect your oral health. By taking care of your teeth and gums, you can focus on overcoming cancer and getting back to living a healthy, happy life.