Managing Oral Complications of Cancer Treatment
Posted on 9/25/2023 by Water's Edge Dental
|Cancer treatments like chemotherapy, radiation, and bone marrow transplants can cause difficult oral side effects. Being proactive enables the prevention and relief of these complications to improve patients' quality of life during this challenging time.
Common Oral Side Effects of Cancer Therapy
Head and neck radiation often leads to dry mouth, loss of taste, mouth sores, gum inflammation and infection, jaw stiffness, and increased dental decay. Chemotherapy may reduce saliva flow, suppress the immune system, and lower white blood cell counts, increasing vulnerability to oral infections. Practicing diligent daily care and obtaining prompt, professional treatment helps manage these complex issues.
Practicing Preventive Oral Hygiene and Care
When possible, patients should optimize oral health before starting cancer treatment. Professional cleanings remove bacteria and irritants like plaque and tartar, while extractions eliminate potential infection sites. Custom fluoride trays may help strengthen enamel.
During therapy, using extra-soft toothbrushes, flossing very gently, avoiding alcohol and tobacco, rinsing with salt water, and applying lip balm help prevent mouth sores and infections. Saliva substitutes, gels, lozenges, and moisturizing sprays bring relief to dry mouth.
Maintaining Proper Nutrition
Eating pureed, soft, mild foods and avoiding spicy, acidic, salty, sugary, and crunchy items minimizes oral irritation. Meeting calorie, protein, vitamin, and mineral needs aids healing and fights infection. Staying hydrated is also crucial.
Obtaining Ongoing Professional Support
Seeing a dentist at the outset of care establishes a collaborative treatment plan. Follow-up visits during therapy allow prompt intervention for emerging problems like infections or sores. Professionals can prescribe medicated rinses, custom trays, and therapies to soothe and protect compromised oral tissues.
Staying attentive safeguards patients' oral and systemic health during cancer treatment. Patients can prevent or resolve complications with dedicated home regimens and professional guidance for improved comfort and well-being.