Oral Care for Oncology Patients

Oral Care before, during and after cancer treatment.

Oral complications can occur with patients receiving chemotherapy (roughly 40%), receiving radiation for head and neck malignancies (approx. 75%). Some complications only occur during treatment; others such as dry mouth, may persist for a long time after treatment and lead to oral issues as a result.

Your mouth's major protection system comes from three pairs of salivary glands. Cancer treatments can cause dry mouth/salivary gland dysfunction increasing the risk of oral infections, which can affect speech, chewing, and swallowing.

A teaspoon of Oral Balance Moisturizing gel or a similar type of product prior to meals can be helpful to swallow more easily.

Persistent dry mouth also can increase decay, demineralization of the surface of teeth, bleeding from decreased platelets, gum disease. Loss of taste can also happen.

Oral Hygiene Protocol:

Use a toothpaste that is specifically formulated for cancer patients such as Biotene or something similar, which contains natural salivary enzymes that boost and replenish the oral defense system, and inhibit harmful microorganisms associated with gingivitis and oral irritations. products that do not have sodium lauryl sulfate is best because this can also promote canker sores and mouth ulcers.

Using an extra soft toothbrush after every meal and before bed to brush teeth, gums, tongue will help as well. Using a product that helps relieve dry mouth ( a saliva substitute such as a mouth moisturizing gel) can help.

Stay in touch . . .

Keep in contact with your dentist if you are starting cancer treatment, and especially before you start treatment -- at least two weeks prior to the start of cancer treatment visit your dentist. Teaming up with your dentist can help sidestep oral complications. The fewer side effects the better to not compromise your cancer treatment schedule. Alert your dentist/ cancer care team if you are experiencing oral complications during your treatment phase.

About mouth sores from treatment . . .

Also, be sure to ask your oncologist about how to avoid/minimize mouth sores if you are to begin chemotherapy treatment.

Sometimes you will be given something for that or there is a special mouth wash recipe for this, to use after each mean, after brushing your teeth. Let me know if you are interested in the recipe for the mouth wash.

If you end up having a mouth sore, take small bites of food, chew slowly, and sip liquids with meals. Avoid sharp, crunchy foods that could scrape or cut your mouth. Always alert your care team and dentist.

Hopefully your oncology care team will have already counseled patients on this.

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