Are you being treated with chemotherapy for cancer? If so, this information can help you. While chemotherapy helps treat cancer, it can also cause many side effects. Some of these problems affect the mouth and could cause you to delay or stop treatment. The information on this page will provide you with information to help prevent mouth problems and get the most benefit from your cancer treatment. Call Parkway Dental at 919-380-9622 for more information and schedule your appointment with Dr. Stephen Coker in Cary, North Carolina.  To help prevent serious problems, you should visit with our dentist at least 2 weeks before starting chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to treat cancer. These drugs kill cancer cells, but they may also harm normal cells, including cells in the mouth. Side effects include problems with your teeth and gums; the soft, moist lining of your mouth; and the glands that make saliva. It’s important to know that side effects in the mouth can be serious. The side effects can be painful and make it hard to eat, talk, and swallow. You are more likely to get an infection, which can be dangerous when you are receiving cancer treatment.

The problems that develop will depend on the chemotherapy drugs used in your cancer treatment and how your body reacts to them.  You may experience these side effects during or after your treatment.

Once you have begun treatment, check your mouth every day for sores and other changes.  We recommend that you take the following steps to keep your mouth healthy:

  • Keep your mouth moist.
  • Drink a lot of water.
  • Suck ice chips.
  • Use sugarless gum or sugar-free hard candy.
  • Use a saliva substitute to help moisten your mouth.
  • Clean your mouth, tongue, and gums.
  • Brush your teeth, gums, and tongue with an extra-soft toothbrush after every meal and at bedtime. If brushing hurts, soften the bristles in warm water.
  • Use a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Don’t use mouthwashes with alcohol in them.
  • Floss your teeth gently every day. If your gums bleed and hurt, avoid the areas that are bleeding or sore, but keep flossing your other teeth.
  • Rinse your mouth several times a day with a solution of 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and 1/8 teaspoon salt in one cup of warm water. Follow with a plain water rinse.
  • Dentures that don’t fit well can cause problems. Talk to your cancer doctor or us about your dentures.
  • Choose foods that are good for you and easy to chew and swallow.
  • Take small bites of food, chew slowly, and sip liquids with your meals.
  • Eat soft, moist foods such as cooked cereals, mashed potatoes, and scrambled eggs.
  • If you have trouble swallowing, soften your food with gravy, sauces, broth, yogurt, or other liquids.

Things You Should Avoid During Chemotherapy Treatment

  • Sharp, crunchy foods, like taco chips, that could scrape or cut your mouth.
  • Food that are hot, spicy, or high in acid, like citrus fruits and juices, which can irritate your mouth.
  • Sugary foods, like candy or soda that could cause cavities.
  • Toothpicks, because they can cut your mouth.
  • All tobacco products.
  • Alcoholic drinks.

Contact our practice today for more information and to schedule your appointment with our caring dentist.