You probably already know cancer treatment can have a lot of unpleasant effects on your body, ranging from hair loss to vomiting, but you may not know that your oral health can also be affected. With the help of your dentist, you can keep your teeth and gums healthy during your cancer treatment. Here are four ways that cancer treatment affects your mouth.
Both chemotherapy and radiation therapy can lead to dry mouth. Dry mouth means that your salivary glands aren't making enough saliva as they should, which leaves your mouth feeling uncomfortably dry. These treatments can damage your salivary glands, and while your salivary glands will recover, dry mouth can cause a lot of problems.
Your saliva helps to keep your mouth clean by washing away food particles and bacteria. Without enough saliva, you may develop problems like sores, mouth infections, and gum disease. Your dentist can help you avoid these problems. They may recommend using artificial saliva or sucking on sugar-free candies to stimulate saliva production.
A common complication of cancer treatment is oral mucositis. Oral mucositis occurs when the tissue that lines the insides of your cheeks breaks down, allowing ulcers to form. These ulcers are quite painful and can make it hard for you to open your mouth, eat, or brush your teeth.
Your dentist can help you manage these ulcers in many ways. They can debride (remove) any dead tissue from the ulcers and can help you keep the area clean. You may be given antibacterial or antifungal mouthwash to kill germs in the area and prevent infection. Mouthwashes that contain lidocaine or morphine may also be given to reduce the pain in the area.
Cancer treatments can weaken your immune system, and this effect makes it harder for your body to fight off bacteria and fungi in your mouth. This makes it easier for these germs to take hold and cause an infection. For example, you may develop candidiasis, a fungal infection that is also known as yeast. This infection appears as a creamy, white buildup on your tongue, cheeks, and other mouth surfaces.
If you develop an infection in your mouth as a result of cancer treatment, your dentist can give you medicated mouth rinses to get rid of it. These rinses may be antibacterial or antifungal, depending on the cause of the infection. If you wear dentures, bridges, or other restorations, you'll need to treat them with the rinse as well to avoid re-introducing the bacteria or fungi to your mouth.
Cancer treatment can also lead to an increased number of cavities; dentists call this phenomenon "radiation caries". This can be a result of dry mouth as without enough saliva, food particles and bacteria can remain on your teeth and lead to decay. If you have sore gums as a result of your treatment, you may not feel like brushing your teeth or flossing as often as you used to. This can also encourage the formation of cavities.
It's important to brush and floss every day, even during cancer treatment, as this can help reduce your risk of tooth decay. Your dentist may also recommend using fluoride to strengthen your teeth and may want to see you more often for professional cleanings.
Cancer treatment is essential, but it can cause a lot of unpleasant side effects inside your mouth. If you're undergoing chemotherapy or radiation, keep an eye on your mouth and stay alert for any changes. If you notice new problems like a dry mouth or ulcers, make sure to see your dentist right away. You can also check out sites like http://www.joerosenbergddspa.net to find a dentist if you don't currently have one.