Chemotherapy and Your Dental Health

Sadly, approximately 4 out of 10 of people will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime. If you or a loved one are diagnosed with cancer, there are some things you should know about how cancer treatment can affect dental health and certain types of dental treatment. In this Blog, we will discuss chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy drugs are one of the most common treatments for many different types of cancer. And while those drugs kill cancer cells, they also can harm normal cells.  Mouth tissue is especially susceptible, and many cancer patients develop problems with their teeth, gums, and the salivary glands.

So what are the side effect of chemotherapy for your oral health? Everyone is different, and there are many different chemotherapy drugs, so not everyone will have the same side effects.  One of the most common changes resulting from chemotherapy is a decrease in the amount of saliva produced, leading to dry mouth. Dry mouth can be very uncomfortable and in very severe cases can contribute to mouth sores and very rapidly progressing tooth decay. Sucking on ice chips, chewing gum, or using a prescription saliva substitute may be helpful. Other possible side effects include pain in the mouth and gums, burning or swelling of the tongue, infections, prolonged bleeding, and a loss of or a change in taste.

It is very important to tell Dr. Still if you have ever received any sort of chemotherapy, as it can affect how well you heal or contribute to excessive bleeding following dental surgeries like extractions or implants. It might also be necessary to put off some of these types of procedures to decrease your chance of having complications.

Before a patient starts chemotherapy, their medical doctor will usually require that they visit their dentist. This can help prevent problems later on, as pre-existing dental problems are usually to blame. Not all side-effects can be avoided, but starting treatment with a healthy mouth will help keep the treatment schedule on track.

After treatment starts, it’s important to carefully monitor your mouth for sores and come in for regular cleanings and checkups so that Dr. Still can continue to monitor your teeth and gums.  We will always request a written clearance from your Oncologist before doing any dental treatment. To keep your mouth moist (the most common problem), be sure to stay well hydrated.

In summary:

  • Oral complications are common in cancer patients, especially those with head and neck cancer.
  • Preventing and controlling oral complications can help you continue cancer treatment and have a better quality of life.
  • Patients receiving treatments that affect the head and neck should have their care planned by a team of doctors and specialists.

If you have any questions about the effects of chemotherapy on your oral health, call Smile Sarasota and ​schedule an appointment with Dr. Still so that he can guide you through the best treatment to keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible during your treatment.

Sources and Credits: cancer.gov, cancer.net