Although it may not seem like the most obvious of associations, chemotherapy and dental treatment share a somewhat cause-and-effect relationship. Chemotherapy patients sometimes find themselves suffering from oral care problems and in need of dental treatment. This occurs because of the manner in which chemotherapy medications attack cancer cells, also attacking some of the body’s normal cells in areas that include the mouth.
Oral Health Problems that Require Dental Treatment during Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy and other cancer treatments can leave you with unpleasant side effects that include:
- Dry mouth
- Oral pain (makes eating, talking and even swallowing a challenge)
- A heightened risk of infection
- Burning, peeling or swollen tongue
These side effects are usually fairly easy to recognize and identify. Be sure to contact your dentist if you notice any of these problems after beginning chemotherapy.
Cancer and Dental Treatment: Visiting Your Dentist
When it comes to chemotherapy and dental treatment, a great preventative measure you can take is to visit your dentist before your cancer treatment begins. The thought of being in yet another medical setting may sound unappealing; however, your oral health can suffer greatly if you fail to receive professional dental treatment during chemotherapy. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research suggests that you visit the dentist up to a month before beginning cancer treatment, if possible.
As they assess your oral health, your dentist will:
- Take x-rays of your mouth
- Clean and examine your teeth
- Treat any problems that they discover
- Educate you on effective methods for at-home care
Balancing Chemotherapy and Dental Treatment at Home
Because of the increased risk of dental problems that can result from chemotherapy, it is imperative that you pay close attention to any oral health changes that you notice. Begin practicing healthy habits, such as keeping your mouth moisturized to prevent dry mouth or lingering bacteria.
Below are suggestions as to how you can care for your mouth in between dental visits.
- Drink water or chew sugar-free gum to help produce more saliva.
- Gently brush your teeth after each meal and before bed, ensuring that you also clean your gums and tongue.
- Floss regularly, avoiding any areas that are painful or areas that bleed.
- Use alcohol-free mouthwashes to reduce plaque and prevent decay.
- Eat foods that are easy to chew and to digest in order to avoid oral pain.
- Avoid highly acidic foods that can cause oral discomfort.
- Abstain from alcohol and tobacco products during the course of your cancer treatment.
If you find yourself in pain despite your efforts to properly care for your mouth, contact both your doctor and dentist. Don’t hesitate to create a discussion between your doctor and your dentist involving issues related to administering chemotherapy and dental treatment alongside one another.
If you are undergoing chemotherapy and are in need of dental treatment, contact the knowledgeable dentists of McDonough Center for Family Dentistry. Our team of dental experts will work with you to create a treatment plan that caters to your personal needs. Conveniently schedule an appointment with us online or call us today at (678) 432-0209.