Oral Complications of Cancer Treatment
Cancer affects your mouth
Both cancer and cancer treatments affect oral health, and are affected by the patient's oral condition. This is true both for cancers in the mouth itself, and for cancers in other parts of the body.
Radiation therapy can permanently damage salivary glands if they are in the field of radiation. Chemotherapy can change the composition of saliva, creating a sensation of dry mouth.
Of the 1.2 million Americans diagnosed with cancer each year, about one-third develop oral complications from their cancer treatment. These complications can be so debilitating that doctors are forced to use lower, less effective doses of cancer curing drugs, to postpone scheduled treatments, or even discontinue cancer treatment entirely. Oral complications or disease can also be a source of infections that interfere with cancer therapy or pose a serious threat to patient survival.
For these reasons, cancer patients need a dentist as part of their team of treating healthcare professionals.
Dr. Fox has experience and expertise in helping cancer patients while cooperating with their treating physicians.
Cancer patients with dry mouth will find helpful information on our web page devoted to xerostomia (abnormally dry mouth).
Keeping your mouth healthy during cancer therapy
You can do a lot to protect your oral health during cancer treatment, and to ensure that your oncologist's treatment can be successfully completed, by proper care of your mouth.
The first step is to see a dentist before starting any cancer treatment.
When possible, completion of any dental treatment needed to eliminate oral infection, root canal problems, abscessed teeth, gum disease or cavities is best done two weeks before beginning any cancer treatment. If is crucial that your dentist be a capable, well-informed member of your cancer treatment team. Working in conjunction with your physicians and other health care providers, your dentist can help you avoid painful oral complications that could force you to discontinue your cancer therapy.
Check your mouth daily during cancer treatment
Once cancer treatment begins, it is important to check your mouth daily for the occurrence or oral sores, irritations, swelling, discomfort or any other changes. Should you encounter anything unusual or suspicious, call your dentist immediately.
Preventing or treating sore mouth
Mouth soreness is a common problem for cancer patients. Following your dentist's recommendations will prevent many problems. Make sure you keep your dentist aware of any changes in how your mouth feels. To prevent discomfort, the following measures may be helpful as well:
If your mouth is sore or painful
Consult with your dentist and your physician or oncologist. To enhance comfort, the following measures are often helpful: