The Do's and Don'ts of Oral Care During Cancer Treatment

A cancer diagnosis triggers a flurry of activity. There are specialists to consult, medical tests to take, and treatment decisions to make. In the midst of the chaos, it’s easy to overlook the importance of oral care. Cancer treatments like chemotherapy can significantly affect your mouth health, so do try to set aside some time to visit your family dentist in Alpharetta before or shortly after beginning chemo. If you’ve recently switched family dentists and you have a history of cancer, he or she needs to know whether you’ve ever had radiation directed at the facial area.

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Do undergo dental treatments before beginning cancer treatment.

Chemotherapy suppresses the immune system. This is why your oncologist has probably advised you to avoid contact with sick people and to wash your hands often. You’ll have more trouble fighting off oral infections during cancer treatment. If possible, have any extractions, fillings, or periodontal treatments done before starting chemo. At the very least, you should have an oral exam and cleaning.

Don’t use aggressive dental care techniques.

Chemotherapy, and radiation to the head and neck area, can cause mouth discomfort and soreness. Talk to your dentist about using a sponge applicator if using a toothbrush is too painful. If your platelet count is low and flossing makes your gums bleed, temporarily stop flossing the teeth in this area. A water flosser might be a gentler option. Avoid using mouth rinses that contain alcohol. Check the list of ingredients before you purchase a product.

Do stay hydrated.

There are many reasons why it’s important to drink lots of fluids during cancer treatment, and oral health is one of them. You can relieve dry mouth by sipping water throughout the day, and by using artificial saliva products. Addressing dry mouth, called xerostomia, can help you prevent cavities. Milk is another good beverage choice, since your teeth need calcium and your immune system needs protein. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages.

Don’t trigger pain from mouth sores.

Let your doctor or family dentist know about any mouth sores that develop. It can be painful to eat with mouth sores, but this is manageable by avoiding the following types of foods:

  • Spicy
  • Acidic
  • Hot
  • Sharp or crunchy
  • Sugary

Instead, choose soft, moist foods, such as scrambled eggs, yogurt, vegetable soups, and oatmeal with plenty of milk. Good nutrition is important during cancer treatment, and these soft foods will reduce your mouth pain.

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