Oral Hygiene for Cancer Patients

Cancer is a diagnosis that no one wants to hear. The news of cancer is never good, but the prognosis and survival rate has improved wildly over the years.

Once a diagnosis is received, the doctors will probably need to make a treatment plan. Often the treatments won’t be starting immediately. The doctors will arrange tests and design a specific treatment plan.

Cancer treatments may include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. The treatment may consist of one of these, two of these or all three. Cancer treatments can have unpleasant side effects One of the side effects is soreness and/or dryness of the mouth. Chemotherapy, in particular, can cause dry mouth and mouth sores. These conditions make eating and taking in necessary nutrients difficult.

It’s a good idea to go into cancer treatment with your mouth and teeth in as good a shape as possible. If there is time, arrange to get a professional cleaning by your dentist’s hygienist. A clean mouth gives bacteria and fungi less places to hide.

Chemotherapy can cause a host of oral side effects including hypersensitivity due to discomfort, ulcerated gingival tissues, impaired taste buds, and erosion of tooth enamel. A nurses’ initiative improving oral care at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has resulted in a significant reduction in infection.

Make sure your dentist is informed about all health problems

Many dentists ask for updated information of a regular basis as a matter of routine. Any major dental work, extractions or other oral surgeries must be done at least a month before cancer therapy begins. Once cancer therapy states, the healing and tissue regeneration will stop. This can result in increased risk of infection and permanent dental problems.

Make sure that the dentist or oral surgeon has an up-to-date list of your oncologist and family doctor, as well as an up-to-date list of medications and supplements used.

Dentures must fit properly so they don’t cause irritation. Use of removable mouth appliances may need to be discontinued during times of soreness.

While undergoing treatment for cancer, a strict regimen of dental health must be followed. A daily oral health routine should include the following:

  1. Brush teeth gently, with a soft bristle toothbrush and a non-abrasive toothpaste. Brush teeth three times a day. When brushing, rinse frequently.
  2. Floss daily to remove trapped food and tartar, unless instructed otherwise by the doctor. Some doctors may instruct the patient to discontinue flossing while going through treatment. If this is the case, follow the doctor’s instructions.
  3. Gums may become too sore to brush. if this happens, clean around gums with a soft cloth. Use a non-irritating toothpaste. A gentle cleaner can be made with a paste of baking soda and water. A mild saline solution can also be used instead of toothpaste.
  4. Uses alcohol-free mouthwashes. Mouthwashes that contain alcohol can dry the mouth, which causes irritation.
  5. Rinse mouth with water after drinking sweet foods or juices.
  6. Mouth irritations and sores can be relieved by topical applications of vitamin E or tea tree oil.
  7. Keep toothbrush clean so it doesn’t become a breeding place for germs. Replace the brush often. After using the brush, rinse it well and let it air dry.
Dental Clinic. An elderly retired gentleman, discussing with your dentist x-ray results

Oncologists and their staff’s are experienced with the side effects of cancer treatments. If you have any questions about oral hygiene, or need product recommendations, be sure to consult with your medical professional.