Oral Health while Being Treated for Cancer

Unfortunately, cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease.  Currently there are about 12 million people in the U.S. living with an invasive form of cancer.  It’s likely you know someone being treated for cancer today, and the treatment used is commonly chemotherapy.

Many chemotherapy drugs have oral side effects that can be damaging, and cause further discomfort to a patient being treated for cancer. The objective of this post is to teach  patients about the oral side effects of chemotherapy, and to give them tools in order to avoid , or lessen their chances of having such complications during treatment.

One of the most important steps to take when a patient is undergoing chemotherapy is to maintain excellent oral hygiene at home, as well as visit the dentist every 3-6 months. Chemotherapy medications can cause oral tissue hypersensitivity with pain, oral ulcers, taste alteration, erosion of tooth enamel due to vomiting, dry mouth, and mucositis ( inflammation and pain of the lining of the mouth and digestive tract).

Below are some tips to deal with the above complications:

Vomiting: If chemo treatment has made you nauseous, and you’ve been vomiting, DO NOT brush immediately afterwards.  Instead, rinse with lukewarm water mixed with a bit of baking soda, and then brush gently afterward. The acid from stomach contents can wear away enamel, and brushing right away will only make this worse.

Mucositis: If your gums, the inside of your cheeks, or your palate feel inflamed and are red and causing you severe pain, mucositis may likely be the diagnosis. This requires the care of your dentist, who may then recommend some palliative care options for you. Such care may include: saline mouth rinses, ice chips, alcohol-free mouth rinses, and more.

Dry mouth: Salivary flow may likely be lessened during chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Sipping water (non-flavored, and with a neutral pH) can help lubricate the mouth. Chewing tart, SUGARLESS gum may also help increase saliva. Your dentist can also prescribe and recommend other medications, or aids to help with producing saliva.

When a patient finds out they will be undergoing chemotherapy, they should look to their dentist for help in maintaining oral health, as well to treat chemotherapy’s oral side effects, thus easing the discomfort caused by chemotherapy.

Thanks for reading our post,

Dr. Margaret Frankel

Information from this article was gathered from The American Cancer Society, and Dental Economics: www.dentaleconomics.com

Tooth Sensitivity

What causes tooth sensitivity?

Commonly, tooth sensitivity is caused by cavities, cracked teeth, grinding, or clenching of one’s teeth, worn-out fillings, weakening of the outermost surface of the teeth known as enamel, or gum recession ( when the gums move away from the teeth). All of the above issues allow for foods, liquids, and other irritants to interact with the nerves in the tooth, thus triggering a pain response!

How can you prevent tooth sensitivity?

The best way to prevent tooth sensitivity is with excellent oral hygiene habits. This includes daily brushing with fluoride toothpaste and flossing, as well as regular dental check-ups! Did you know that brushing too hard can lead to tooth sensitivity? Brushing properly, with light pressure and a soft-bristled brush, is important!

Can tooth sensitivity be treated? 

YES! Your dentist (Richards Frankel Dentistry) can help identify the cause of the sensitivity and then discuss treatment options with you. Some desensitizing toothpastes may work, or in-office treatment may also help to treat the tooth sensitivity. It is best to discuss the sensitivity with your dentist so that they can properly treat the cause of the pain.

Thank you for following us!


Dr. Margaret


Information from this blog was researched and collected from JADA. www.jada.ada.org

“Zion and Daeker Sunset” by Robert Conley is licensed under CC BY