Oral Care for Cancer Patients.

By: staff, On: May 25, 2011,
Posted In: Dental Hygiene

Oral Care for Chemotherapy and/or Head and Neck radiation Patients.


Chemotherapy and Head and neck radiation have a huge impact on your mouth!!!!!!

When you are diagnosed with cancer you have a lot of things to think about and what impact that the treatments will have on your teeth and mouth probably isn’t one of them.  The truth is that patients going through chemotherapy may have anywhere from slight mouth irritation to severe pain with life threatening consequences, depending on the drugs you are given.   The good news is that we can help you manage the complications and your oral health will go back to normal within a few weeks after completing chemotherapy.   If you are someone going through head and neck radiation you too may have mild to severe pain that we can help you manage.  The difference for you to know is that the radiation may destroy your salivary glands and they normally do not return to normal after your treatments have stopped and therefore lifelong management of your mouth and teeth is necessary.

If you are going through either chemotherapy or head and neck radiation please remember to visit the dentist before treatments begin.  All decay or infected teeth will need to be restored.  Ill fitting dentures and partials need to be adjusted.  Sometimes you are instructed not to wear dentures during treatment so that you don’t get sore spots and sometime they will never fit again due to tissue changes and dry mouth.  If you are going through head and neck radiation treatments you should have fluoride trays made and instructions on wearing them before treatment starts to help prevent decay. Both treatments may cause oral mucocitis, which is very sore, inflamed tissue that may require pain medicine, mouth washes and possibly stopping treatments until it heals.  After chemotherapy almost everything in the mouth goes back to normal.  After radiation, you usually end up with dry mouth (xerostomia), which causes decay, difficulty swallowing, not being able to wear dentures, and discomfort.  Lifelong fluoride and regular dental visits are essential.  Extractions after bone has had radiation should only be done if there is no other way to save a tooth.   Your dentist and dental hygienist should be able to help you manage all problems you may encounter, from pain management to fungal infections, to nutrition.  Dentist should work closely with your oncologist.

There are so many things to remember before starting either treatment that we have developed a power point to help patients understand what to do before, during and after treatments.  We started this  blog to help answer any questions you may have and so that you can share your experiences and help others while they go through their cancer treatments.     

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