| How can cancer therapy affect my
||Of the 1.2 million Americans diagnosed with cancer each
year, approximately 400,000 will develop oral complications from their
treatment. All forms of cancer treatment, including radiation,
chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants, can cause complications that
affect oral health. In killing cancer cells, treatments also may
harm normal cells. Healthy cells in the mouth are particularly
vulnerable. Complications can make it hard to eat (which
promotes poor nutrition) talk and swallow, and can increase the
likelihood of infection.
|How can oral complications affect my
||Oral complications of cancer treatment can be so debilitating
that patients may tolerate only lower, less effective doses of cancer
drugs, my postpone scheduled treatments, or may discontinue the
treatments entirely. Oral complications also can be the source
of infections that interfere with cancer therapy and threaten patient
|What are the side effects of cancer
||Different people experience different
complications. The most common include:
- Dry Mouth
- Increased tooth decay
- Loss of taste
- Jaw stiffness
- Painful mouth and gums
- Burning, peeling or swelling tongue
|Why should my dentist be involved in my
||You may be surprised to learn that your dentist is
important in your cancer treatment. If you go to the dentist
before radiation begins, you can help prevent serious oral health
problems. Complications often occur because a patient's mouth is
not healthy before cancer treatment begins. Not all mouth
problems can be avoided, but the fewer oral complications you have,
the more likely that you will stay on your treatment schedule.
You should see your dentist at least two weeks before your first
treatment. If you have already started treatment, see your
dentist as soon as possible.
|How can I keep my mouth healthy?
||You can do a lot to protect your oral health during
cancer treatment. The first step is to see a dentist before you
start. Once treatment begins, it is important to look in your
mouth every day for sores and other changes. If you find
something unusual, call you dentist immediately. The following
tips can help prevent and treat a sore mouth.
- Keep your mouth moist.
- Drink a lot of water.
- Suck on ice chips.
- Use sugarless gum or sugar-free hard candy.
- Use a saliva substitute.
Clean your mouth, tongue and gums:
- Brush your teeth, gums and tongue with an extra soft toothbrush
after every meal and at bedtime. If it hurts, soften the
bristles with warm water.
- Use a fluoride toothpaste.
- Avoid mouthwash that contains alcohol. check the label for
the list of ingredients.
- Floss gently every day. If your gums bleed and hurt, avoid
the areas that are bleeding or sore, but keep flossing your other
- Rinse your mouth several times a day with a solution of 1/4
teaspoon baking soda and 1/8 teaspoon salt in one cup of warm
If your mouth is sore:
- Eat foods that are good for you and easy to chew and swallow.
- Take small bites of food, chew slowly and sip liquids.
- Avoid hard, crunchy and spicy foods, alcohol and tobacco.
||See your dentist at least two weeks before beginning
cancer treatment. It is crucial that your dentist is a
well-informed member of your cancer treatment team. Working with
your other health care providers, your dentist can help you avoid the
painful oral complications that could cause you to discontinue your