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How Oral Health Changes When Undergoing Chemo
Posted on 7/23/2020 by Jeannie Molato, DDS
Unfortunately, chemotherapy can have serious and long term side effects to one's health. Oral health is not immune to the many serious challenges posed by chemo. Those who survive cancer are at times left with serious dental conditions and it's better to be aware of the complications that could arise out of cancer treatments.
What Happens to Teeth During Chemotherapy
Radiation and chemotherapy focus on destroying cancerous cells in the body. In chemo, drugs are used to stop the formation of cells. While these do their job, they also interfere with the growth and health of regular cells, including those in the mouth. Since certain cells in the mouth grow at a faster rate than others, this poses a risk to overall oral health. Other than damaging the teeth, chemo also negatively affects the health of the gums and the saliva-producing glands that moisten the mouth. All these could result in pain in the mouth, mouth dryness, pain or swelling of the tongue and other infections. Patients also report that things taste different when they are undergoing chemo.
What to Do for Oral Health During Chemo
An important step is to constantly keep the mouth hydrated. The patient should drink water, even small amounts of it, to moisten the teeth and gums. Chips of ice can also keep the mouth moistened. There are substitutes for saliva that the patient could use, with the advice of the doctors. The patient should also look for any swelling or other serious discolorations in the mouth and if they are found, should inform our dentists immediately.
When Do I Need to Come In?
The crucial step is to schedule and visit our dentists at least four weeks before chemo begins. This gives ample time for our doctors to plan an oral health and inspection routine. It's also important to periodically apprise our dentists of changes if any.