Oral Health Affected by Cancer Treatments

Oral Health Affected by Cancer Treatments

Being told that you are diagnosed with cancer can be a terrifying thing. This terrible disease can be implicated in many locations, and most tumors cannot be cured completely. But today’s cancer treatments can slow down or even eliminate a small, isolated tumor. However, chemotherapy and radiation therapy can have undesirable and painful side effects involving your body and mouth. Understanding those side effects can help manage them, making your cancer treatment more comfortable for your mouth.

Dentists recommend having an oral exam before starting chemotherapy or radiation therapy. If you have problems such as cavities or gum disease, they should be treated before cancer treatment to minimize complications.

How can cancer treatments affect your mouth?

Side effects can reach many mouth regions when you undergo cancer treatments. The intensity depends on the kind of therapy and its frequency, and side effects can, therefore, be displayed in different manners:

  • The immune system weakens, making your mouth more vulnerable to infectious diseases such as cavities (tooth decay) or periodontal disease.
  • Salivary glands are affected during cancer treatment, reducing their production of saliva. Xerostomia, or dry mouth, follows a lower saliva flow in your mouth, which can induce a burning feeling in and around your tongue if it’s not controlled.
  • Your jaws might become stiff, making it harder for you to eat, speak, or swallow.
  • * The ability to taste foods also decreases and your appetite in general.

To manage all those undesired side effects, your dentist can recommend keeping your mouth healthy and comfortable.

Caring for your mouth

Oral hygiene is extremely crucial! When doing cancer treatments, the saliva flow is reduced in your mouth (xerostomia), making it easier to develop cavities and gum disease. Therefore, oral hygiene is; essential you should brush your teeth after each meal and floss twice daily.

Choose mild-tasting toothpaste because too much flavor can irritate your mouth tissues. If toothpaste still irritates your mouth, rinse with water and salt after brushing.

To avoid periodontal disease, rinse your mouth with an antibacterial solution, either salted warm water or something you buy over the counter. Do not use mouthwash that contains alcohol.

How to manage dry mouth

Xerostomia is an unpleasant sensation caused by reduced saliva production in the mouth when the salivary glands are affected by chemotherapy or radiation therapy. This situation can increase the risk of developing cavities and initiate a burning or painful feeling in your mouth.

If you have cancer and are suffering from dry mouth, your oral hygiene, which consists of brushing and flossing, becomes even more critical. If there are areas in your gums that are bleeding or that are sore, floss gently around them.

You are also advised to use fluoride-containing toothpaste to protect your teeth even more against tooth decay. You can rinse your mouth with a solution of salt and baking soda in warm water several times a day, followed by rinsing with water alone. Other mouthwashes may also be used to rinse your mouth, but as long as they don’t contain alcohol.

Cancer treatment also reduces your ability to taste foods, and you might find it more challenging to eat the foods you are used to. But despite these uncomfortable difficulties, it’s essential to maintain a balanced diet, as your physician and nutritionist recommend.

Balanced diet

Some of the side effects of cancer treatment are nausea and loss of appetite. Even if you experience those consequences, getting the right amount of nutrients and calories in your body is crucial. You must make sure you get enough vitamins and proteins. If needed, you may use vitamin supplements that also provide essential minerals.

Acidic foods can irritate your mouth, and you should avoid acidic, high-sugar beverages like soft drinks and energy drinks. Eating grapefruit or drinking orange and tomato juice should also be avoided because they are naturally acidic foods that can bother your oral tissues.

It would be best if you avoid smoking and drinking alcohol during cancer treatment. Tobacco is a potent carcinogen and should never be consumed in the first place, even less if you are diagnosed with cancer.

How is health affected by cancer?

Cancer can majorly impact an individual’s physical and mental health. Physically, cancer can cause pain, fatigue, and loss of appetite, and it can also lead to organ damage, depending on the type and stage of cancer. Treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy can also cause side effects like nausea, hair loss, and skin issues.

Mentally, cancer can be complicated to cope with. Feelings of fear and anxiety often accompany the diagnosis itself. Treatment decisions may be challenging to make due to the potential risks involved. Additionally, many people with cancer experience depression or post-traumatic stress disorder due to the physical and emotional toll it takes on them.

It is essential for those affected by cancer to seek support from family members, friends, and medical professionals to cope with their diagnosis healthily. Many organizations are also dedicated to providing resources and support for those living with cancer.

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