A cancer diagnosis is always scary and overwhelming. No matter what type of cancer you have, you are suddenly thrust into a new world, filled with words that you never knew existed, procedures that you hadn't heard of before, and routines that you wouldn't have imagined yourself following in the months prior to your diagnosis. One aspect of your self-care that might seem minor in comparison is your oral hygiene routine. It's vital that you do not neglect your teeth and gums while you go through chemotherapy. Read on to find out what types of problems chemo might cause with your dental health, as well as solutions that might help.
One common side effect of chemotherapy is a lack of saliva. A dry mouth is not only uncomfortable, but might set the stage for tooth decay. Saliva naturally cleans the teeth, so a lack thereof leaves your enamel vulnerable to bacteria, which can lead to cavities. Particularly overnight, when the body makes less saliva anyway, your mouth might feel like cotton and your gum tissues might become irritated from being dry.
To combat this issue, you can try chewing sugarless gum or sucking on sugar-free candies to stimulate your salivary glands to make more saliva. Also, drink water throughout the day to keep oral tissues moist. Your doctor can give you a prescription mouth rinse or a medication to help your body make more saliva, too, explains WebMD.
Some types of chemotherapy can make it harder for your blood to clot. The chemotherapy might also cause ulcers and sores in your mouth that bleed at times. You might notice this especially when brushing and flossing your teeth or when eating hard or crunchy foods. If you see red blood on your toothbrush or you're seeing blood in your food, then it's important to bring this up with your dentist.
In most cases, you will be able to continue to brush and floss your teeth normally. Use a gentle touch, and it might help to switch to a soft toothbrush if you're currently using one labeled as medium. There are also soft flosses available that might make it more comfortable to keep up with your flossing routine; ask your dentist for a recommendation. Switching to a diet of soft, cool foods can make your gums feel better, too.
Increased Tooth Decay
The above side effects of chemotherapy can cause tooth decay, but the medication itself can weaken your teeth, making you prone to cavities even if you control your dry mouth and bleeding gums. This presents a vicious cycle, because tooth decay can cause infections in the gums which can spread throughout your body if your immune system is low, which is often is when taking chemotherapy.
Brushing and flossing regularly is your top defense against tooth decay at any time, and especially when you are going through cancer treatments. Prescription antibacterial mouthwashes might help, too; talk to your doctor or dentist about this. Also, let your dentist know that you are having chemo; he or she might want to see you more frequently, if possible. Fluoride rinses or treatments can also strengthen your teeth. Finally, if you feel increased sensitivity to hot or cold or get a toothache, see your dentist right away for treatment.
Cancer treatments can be hard on the teeth and gums, but by being proactive about your dental health, you can keep permanent damage at bay in many instances. Work closely with both your oncologist and your general dentist from a site like http://www.accentdentalnwi.com to ensure that your teeth are as healthy as possible as you go through chemotherapy and battle cancer.