Chemotherapy is designed to kill cancer cells, but it can also harm normal cells, such as the cells in your mouth. That means that if you are undergoing chemotherapy in the near-future, the way you take care of your teeth and gums will need to change to accommodate your higher risk of infection. Below are a few tips that can help you maintain good oral hygiene and ease mouth pain during your cancer treatment. If you need any help, advice, or dental treatment, schedule an appointment with Park Cedar Dentistry today.
The best defense is a good offense. In this situation, that means getting all your dental needs taken care of before treatment begins—including dental cleanings, teeth extractions, and fillings. This will help eliminate or catch any sources of dental infection or irritation prior to starting chemotherapy. We recommend scheduling your appointment 2 weeks before starting treatment. You may also want to consult with your primary care doctor to ensure dental treatment won’t interfere with your cancer treatment plan.
We learn in primary school to brush our teeth 3 times a day, but most adults skip the lunch brushing. However, now that you are undergoing cancer treatment, it is important to brush after you eat anything, lest you become susceptible to an infection. Use a brush with soft bristles, and be gentle on your gums. You may also want to use a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth and gums. The brand you choose is unimportant, as long as it contains fluoride that will prevent tooth demineralization.
As long as your platelet count is above 20,000, it is generally acceptable to floss regularly. This will minimize inflammation of the soft tissues in your mouth, which can lead to dental disease, bleeding and infection if your blood counts are low. If possible, start a good flossing routine prior to starting chemotherapy so that your gums are healthy going into treatment.
Hot and spicy sauces can increase pain and sensitivity, especially if you have sores in your mouth. Caffeinated beverages and alcohol can increase mouth dryness; and acidic foods like vinegar, citrus fruits, and tomatoes can cause further irritation. Be sure to check labels carefully for any hidden “danger foods.” Finally, avoid foods that have a lot of sugar, because it is the favorite food of enamel-destroying bacteria, and your teeth are more vulnerable to infections and cavities during cancer treatment.
Be sure to reach out to your healthcare team and dentist if you experience swelling or pain in the mouth or jaw; trouble swallowing; mouth ulcerations that do not heal within one week; white patches in the mouth; a burning mouth sensation; or severe oral dryness.
If you have been diagnosed with cancer, we at Park Cedar Dentistry want to be here for you during this difficult time. If you need a dentist in Charlotte NC, please give us a call, and our friendly dental staff will help create a tooth care plan for you.