Moffitt Restorative Dentistry

How to Help in the Fight against Cancer

Sep 24 2015

More than one-third of all cancer patients develop complications that affect the mouth, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. These mild to severe side effects can include mouth sores, infection, dry mouth, sensitive gums and jaw pain.

How Cancer Affects Your Mouth

Cancer and its treatments, like chemotherapy, can weaken your immune system. If your mouth is not as healthy as possible prior to your cancer treatment, you may be more susceptible to infection. If the infection is serious enough, it can delay your cancer treatment.

In addition, radiation therapy, especially in the area of the head and neck, can damage salivary glands which can cause thick, sticky saliva and extreme dry mouth. A dry mouth can increase your chances of tooth decay and infection.

Cancer: Taking Care of Your Teeth Before Treatment

If your mouth is not as healthy as possible prior to your cancer treatment, you may be more susceptible to infection. If the infection is serious enough, it can delay treatment.

Here are some dental health tips to consider before undergoing cancer treatment:

Visit Your Dentist

Your dentist can evaluate your dental health and discuss which treatment options you should consider prior to starting cancer treatment. By treating areas of concern you may reduce possible dental side effects associated with chemotherapy and radiation. Some treatment options may include fluoride treatments to prevent cavities, filling existing cavities, treating gum disease, removing infected teeth or restoring crowns or bridge work to ensure you will be able to chew your food.

Cancer: Taking Care of Your Teeth During Treatment

During the course of your cancer treatment you may experience mild to severe side effects. Be sure to consult with your cancer care team prior to dental checkups, especially if you have a port under your skin for receiving medication or feeding. This is important because patients with a port may also take anti-blood clotting medications, which can increase bleeding during dental and medical procedures and the risk of infection.

Cancer: Taking Care of Your Teeth After Treatment

After cancer treatment, you may find yourself experiencing some dental issues or simply needing a regular checkup. As you’re working toward your best health, don’t forget to take care of your mouth. After all, it is the gateway to the rest of your body. Here are some things to consider after completing treatment.

Visit Your Dentist

Routine check-ups and cleanings are essential, so visit your dentist on a regular basis. Due to the effects of cancer treatment, you may have moderate to severe tooth decay as a result of dry mouth since saliva (spit) is essential in rinsing the mouth of food particles and plaque. Treatment may include filling cavities, root canals, or crown and bridge work.

Brush Regularly

Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Don’t forget to brush your tongue.

Floss Daily

Cleaning between your teeth once a day with floss or another product made to clean between your teeth will help remove plaque from your teeth and gums.

Rinse Your Mouth Often

This will help keep food and debris off of your teeth and gums. Avoid rinses that have alcohol in them. Rinsing often, along with regular brushing and flossing, may help to reduce the chance of dental decay and infection.

Avoid Tobacco

Don’t use tobacco products. Tobacco is harsh on your body – especially your mouth health. Need help quitting? Stop smoking in five steps.

Eat Nutritious Foods

Eating healthy foods rich with vitamins and nutrients can help boost your immune system. Your individual nutrition and calorie needs depend on your age, gender, level of physical activity and other health factors, but according to MyPlate, a website from the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, an agency of U.S. Department of Agriculture, a balanced and healthy diet should include:

•Fruits and vegetables. Combined, these should cover half your plate at meals.

•Grains. At least half of the grains you eat should be whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole wheat bread and brown rice.

•Dairy. Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy foods most often.

•Protein. Make lean protein choices, such as lean beef, skinless poultry and fish. Vary your protein choices to also include eggs, beans, peas and legumes. Eat at least eight ounces of seafood a week.

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