After a cancer diagnosis, most patients take stock and get serious about their overall health. Yet, there is one area that is often overlooked: the mouth. Many people don’t know the potential effects of cancer treatment will have on their oral health.
Mouth, gums, and teeth are particularly vulnerable to chemotherapy used to treat many types of malignancies. While many oral reactions are temporary, it’s important that patients be aware of what may be going on inside their mouths at the time of cancer treatment.
Some of the most common consequences of chemotherapy or radiation to the head and neck area include:
- mucositis, which is inflammation or ulcers in the mouth
- mouth infections and bleeding stemming from suppressed immune function
- salivary gland dysfunction resulting in dry mouth
- taste changes
- dry mouth
- and pain
Here at THE SCIENCE OF SMILES®, we emphasize the importance of routine dental exams, brushing a minimum of twice a day, flossing regularly, using fluoridated toothpaste, and being mindful about healthy diet choices. For patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, we advise more frequent checkups and perhaps the use of a prescription-strength fluoridated toothpaste.
We understand the demands on patients that arise after a cancer diagnosis. But patients should not let their oral health slip during this time. Remember, the state of your mouth, teeth, and gums influences the ability to maintain good nutrition, speech, and appearance. Good oral health can positively enhance overall health and sense of well-being for everyone!