Cancer treatments impact your entire body, including your mouth. The harsh physical reaction to chemotherapy and radiation often creates side effects that damage oral health. Oral care during cancer treatment is an important step of your recovery process.
At Atlanta Smiles, we’re here to support you through your cancer journey. Our team has the knowledge and experience to offer compassionate care to patients going through cancer treatments. Here are a few oral care tips to help you manage the side effects.
Common Oral Health Side Effects from Cancer Treatments
Cancer treatments may reduce the quality and quantity of saliva, which impacts your teeth, gums, and other oral tissue. Plus, radiation for cancers in the head or neck can damage saliva glands and create stiffness in the neck and jaw.
The changes in the mouth can lead to oral disease and discomfort, including:
- Oral sores
- Changes in taste
- Dry mouth
- Jaw stiffness
We recommend scheduling a dental checkup before you begin chemotherapy or radiation. Also, schedule more frequent dental visits to address any oral infections or issues quickly.
How To Reduce the Risks to Oral Health During Cancer Treatments
The dental team at Atlanta Smiles understands how to treat patients recovering from or undergoing cancer treatments. We’ve found a few strategies to help reduce the side effects and provide great oral care during your cancer treatment.
Maintain Oral Hygiene
Cancer treatment will likely make you feel exhausted and sick. You may not want to brush your teeth when dealing with nausea and other symptoms. Yet, keeping your mouth clean can help reduce cavities. Continue to brush and floss your teeth daily. Also, avoid sugary and acidic foods and drinks that may irritate a sensitive mouth.
Combat Dry Mouth
Certain medications cause dry mouth, which can exacerbate sores and make them feel uncomfortable. We recommend drinking water and avoiding sugary drinks. It may also feel comforting to suck on ice chips. Avoid chewing ice chips because they can damage teeth or cut your mouth. Chewing sugar-free gum may stimulate saliva production. Using a humidifier and applying lip balm can also fight the effects of a dry mouth.
Treat Oral Sores
Oral sores are one of cancer treatments’ most uncomfortable and common side effects. Not only are the sores painful, but they also make it hard to eat and talk. When left unaddressed, oral sores can cause infection. Ask your doctor or dentist to prescribe special ointments and mouthwashes to help the sores heal and reduce the pain.
Learn to Stretch
Jaw stiffness can cause pain and discomfort for patients receiving radiation for head or neck cancers. It can become difficult to talk and chew. Patients can work with a dentist, doctor, or physical therapist to stretch their muscles and relieve stiffness.
Support During Cancer Treatment
The Atlanta Smiles team wants to support our patients with oral care during their cancer treatment. If you need extra care during this time, let our team know.
Call to schedule a dental checkup or to ask questions.