Oral Care During Cancer Treatment

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Before Your Cancer Treatment

Your dentist is an important member of your cancer treatment team! When possible, see your dentist for a thorough checkup at least two to three weeks before your cancer treatments begin. This will allow for a prompt identification and treatment of any existing infections, problem teeth, or other important conditions.

Infected teeth should be removed at least one week (longer is better) before starting the cancer therapy to provide time for initial healing. Teeth with decay should be restored with fillings. Professional cleaning should also be done to remove mineral deposits (tartar) that are irritating to the gums. Any sharp points on the teeth should be smoothed.

During Your Cancer Treatment

Patients often experience changes in the mouth during cancer therapy. Chemotherapy affects rapidly dividing cells. Cancer cells are the primary target, but the lining of the mouth also consists of rapidly dividing cells. It’s not uncommon for the lining of the mouth to become raw and sore.

Continue to follow the oral care instructions from your hygienist:

  • Gently brush your teeth with a soft or super-soft bristle toothbrush twice a day. If your mouth becomes too tender, you can use a sponge applicator such as a Toothette or other oral swab.
  • Floss gently once a day. If flossing causes bleeding and your platelet count is low, it’s okay to discontinue flossing.
  • If your hygienist has recommended it, irrigate around your gums with a Waterpik-type device once a day. You can use a lower (gentler) setting as needed.
  • Rinse your mouth several times a day with a solution of one teaspoon of baking soda and 1/8 teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water. Follow this with a plain water rinse. This is particularly helpful if you experience stomach upset following cancer treatment.
  • Continue with regular dental hygiene appointments.

Other Tips

  • If you develop dry mouth, we can recommend a saliva replacement. Also, sucking on sugar-free gum and sugar-free mints can help.
  • If your mouth becomes extremely sore, we can prescribe an oral topical anesthetic rinse.
  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Taste changes are common during the first 6 months after radiation therapy. If you experience this, be careful not to compensate by adding too much sugar or salt to your meals. At the same time, you may find that your appetite has decreased. You may need to eat more consciously to keep from losing an unhealthy amount of weight.
  • It’s okay to leave partials or dentures out when your mouth is very sore.
  • Do not smoke cigarettes or cigars. Avoid chewing tobacco. Avoid drinking alcohol. These are all very irritating and drying to a sore mouth.

Got any questions?

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Please feel free to call our office today at 970-249-2077.
One of our friendly staff will be happy to help you.

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