During cancer treatment, cells lining the mucus membrane are not replaced as quickly as needed, leaving the mouth especially susceptible to mouth sores, infections, and bleeding gums. These oral complications—which are the fourth most common side effect of cancer treatment—compromise health and quality of life, making it difficult to chew, swallow, and even speak.
Good dental hygiene may help prevent or reduce complications. It is important to keep a close watch on your oral health during cancer treatment. Keeping the mouth, teeth and gums clean during and after cancer treatment may help decrease complications such as mouth sores and infections.
For the best possible outcome, consult with your dentist at least one month prior to cancer treatment. Your dentist will be able to identify and treat problems that can contribute to complications during cancer therapy. This visit will also establish baseline data for follow-up examinations.
Be prepared to clean your mouth often and gently during treatment. Items to have on hand include extra soft toothbrushes like those used for infants and young children, dental floss, a gentle toothpaste without SLS, and a gentle mouthwash without harsh chemicals.
Once all complications from chemotherapy have resolved, you may be able to resume your normal dental exam schedule. However, if your immune system continues to be compromised, your dentist may request blood work before initiating any dental treatment or surgery.
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