In order to maintain a salubrious life one needs to look after their oral health and make it a priority to take care of it on a regular basis. And it is not something new poor oral health can lead to several other diseases. Do you know that a poor oral health condition can end up making the teeth and gums more susceptible to oral viruses, and these viruses can end up causing certain types of cancer? Poor oral health is linked with different types of cancer such as mouth and throat cancers.
Through researches it was seen that those who have a poor oral health, they are more likely to have oral infections such as human papillomavirus (HPV), and in some cases it can also cause cancer. Whereas, ten per cent of people with gum disease and tooth decay tested positive for oral HPV.
Several oral health problems like cavities, broken teeth, loose crowns or fillings and even gum diseases too can get worse or could cause problems during the treatment of cancer. Bacteria which thrive on mouth can cause infection when the immune system is not functioning well or when the count of white blood cells are low.
The treatment of cancer can have an affect virtually on every part of your body, and this also includes your teeth, mouth and gums too. Not just that a poor oral health can also increase your risk of experiencing treatment side effects and possibly interfere with certain cancer therapies.
Hence before beginning the cancer treatment it is a vital part to see a dentist who can give you the assurance of your oral health and say whether your teeth, gums and mouth are in a healthy position. As because doing this can help you to reduce the risk of infection, which can end up compromising your body’s healing capacity. Other than that you should also discuss about your oral health with your oncologist, as because they are ones who can explain in detail what you might expect during your treatment.
What Are Oral health Changes During Cancer Treatment?
During the time of receiving cancer treatment, some people might experience:
#1. Sores in mouth: With certain chemotherapy medications and radiations therapy which is given to head or neck can end up causing sores to develop in the mucous membranes which lines the mouth, throat and digestive tract. Known as mucositis, this condition can end up causing pain and infections, making it difficult to swallow, eat and drink.
Mouth sores are a common treatment side effects. Usually, there are mouth sores which occur on the cheeks, tongue, floor of the mouth, and soft palate. Fortunately, most eventually heal on their own. However, it may be uncomfortable when you have one. During this time one should avoid spicy, acidic, hard, and crunchy foods. As having these foods might end up irritating the sores. And, ask your doctor for rinses or medicines that can help manage mouth pain.
#2. Dry mouth: There are some cancer treatments which can end up damaging the salivary glands, as it disrupts the flow of saliva or it can also cause dry mouth which is known as xerostomia. In addition to discomfort, xerostomia can lead to infections and tooth decay because saliva helps balance the levels of bacteria in the mouth.
- Sensitive gums – There are certain chemotherapy medications which can cause the gums to become tender and inflamed.
- Jaw pain – Radiation therapy to the head and neck may cause pain and stiffness in the jaw.
- Taste changes – Some foods and beverages may taste differently than before, especially bitter, sweet or salty items.
How to protect your dental health during cancer treatment?
It is an important thing to maintain your oral health before, during and after cancer treatment as this may lessen some of the side effects, which help you feel better and allow you to focus more fully on your recovery. Here are some ways to do so:
You need to brush your teeth more often, and brush your teeth more gently with the help of a soft-bristled toothbrush. In place of toothpaste you need to mix a half-teaspoon of salt with four cups of water and use this gentle solution in place of toothpaste. As well as flossing and rinsing your mouth more often is required, because with frequent flossing and rinsing the mouth with water can help in the reduction of irritation by keeping food away from your teeth and gums. Avoid using mouthwashes that contain alcohol as this could create problem. Suck on ice during chemotherapy sessions, request ice chips or sugar-free popsicles, which can help alleviate mouth soreness. As well as staying hydrated is an essential thing during this time, thus drink plenty of water in order to get relief from dry mouth. Avoid acidic beverages, such as orange and cranberry juice, which can be irritating. See your dentist regularly and throughout your cancer treatment, you need to keep your dentist informed of any changes that takes place in your oral health.
Did you know that many cancer treatments can cause side effects in the mouth?
Your mouth is a complex organ of the body, as it is comprised of many types of cells and tissues. Here are some of the ways in which the mouth is unique: It’s the only place where a hard tissue which is the teeth gets to touches the outside world. There are specialized tissue, nerves, and muscles which helps you to eat, taste, swallow, and speak. Your mouth is the only place in the body where the joints have both ball-and-socket and sliding movements. These are the spots where the jawbones connect with the skull. Your mouth also has the glands which produces saliva for lubrication.
Some types of cancer treatment ends up interfering with these functions. This includes chemotherapy, radiation therapy to the head or neck, and some forms of targeted therapy. Surgery is a part of the treatment plan for some cancers of the head and neck. Sometimes, surgery will end up affecting the mouth and its associated structures, like the salivary glands. If you are having surgery, then it is a good idea to discuss possible oral side effects with your health care team and your dentist.
The muscles of the jaw might end up becoming stiff after radiation therapy. Hence you need to ask your health care team to teach you stretching and relaxation exercises in order to keep your jaw muscles in a healthy state.
Dry mouth, can occur as because drugs and radiation therapy to the head and neck can end up affecting the salivary glands. This condition means your mouth may feel dry because you’re not producing enough saliva in order to keep it healthy and in a suitable state. This condition is called xerostomia. If such a situation arises the best to do is stay hydrated, in this situation water is the best choice. Though you are drinking water you need to avoid consuming those caffeinated drinks. Use lubricating mouth rinses before you eat. Saliva helps in keeping the bacteria in your mouth off your teeth. Hence if your mount doesn’t produces enough saliva because of cancer treatment, then this can lead to plaque buildup more easily on your teeth. Plaque can cause tooth decay and gum disease. Hence if such a case arises, you need to practice good oral hygiene, such as regular brushing and flossing in order to keep your oral health in check.
Before You Start Cancer Treatment:
You need to visit your dentist at least 4 weeks before starting treatment for cancer. This needs to be done in order to solve any current dental issues if you are having any such. That’s because an existing problem could create more problems once you start cancer treatment, even possibly interrupting treatment.
If you need dental surgery, get it done at least 2 weeks before starting radiation therapy or chemotherapy. That way, you will have time to heal.
During cancer treatment
Oral hygiene is important: Brush, floss, and rinse. Repeat. A soft toothbrush is preferred. Ask your dentist what softness toothbrush you should use.
Watch what you eat and drink. In particular, stay away from sugar.
Don’t use tobacco products.
Drink lots of fluids.
Ask your health care team about fluoride rinses and gels. These can strengthen your teeth.
You may want to consider chewing sugar-free gum.