Chemotherapy and Oral Health

Because it can cause mouth sores and affect saliva production and swallowing, chemotherapy has a direct impact on oral health. With cancer, it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact symptoms that each patient will encounter. However, dental hygiene is very important during all stages of illness and treatment. 

At Mettler and Griego Family Dentistry, we understand all the oral health complications that can arise before, during, and after chemotherapy. Our dental treatment emphasizes preventative care, so that you can maintain optimal oral health throughout your chemotherapy and recovery. 

What Is Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Often used in tandem with radiation therapy, biological therapy, or surgery, there are many different ways of administering chemotherapy. Treatment depends on the type of cancer, the stage of cancer, and the body’s response, so it is highly individualized. 

Chemotherapy can be administered in the following ways: 

  • Orally: via a pill or liquid
  • Topically: through a cream rubbed onto the skin
  • Intra-arterially (IA): The drugs are injected directly into the artery that is feeding the cancer through a needle, or soft, thin tube (catheter)
  • Intraperitoneally (IP): The drugs are delivered to the peritoneal cavity, which contains organs such as your liver, intestines, stomach, and ovaries
  • Intrathecally (IT): Medicine is injected into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which is found in the area surrounding the spinal cord and the brain
  • Intravenously (IV): The chemotherapy goes directly into a vein

Chemotherapy and Dental Health

Chemotherapy treatment can upset the balance of bacteria in your mouth. Because chemotherapy and radiation treatment weaken your immune system, infection is more likely to occur than usual. Bleeding is also more likely to occur if you are taking drugs to reduce blood clotting. 

An immune system weakened by chemotherapy can lead to gingivitis and periodontal disease. Mettler and Griego Family Dentistry specializes in treating and preventing gum disease. Our laser-assisted periodontal therapy removes any inflamed, infected gum tissue completely and painlessly. 

Chemotherapy and radiation can also cause oral mucositis, an inflammation of your mouth’s mucous membranes. It can also cause sores, mouth pain, and other conditions such as dry mouth. Keeping tabs on your pain and monitoring your saliva can make all the difference. Proper dental care can help prevent mouth sores and tooth decay. 

Practicing good dental hygiene before chemotherapy can help minimize oral symptoms and discomfort. Keeping your mouth clean with regular brushing and flossing is essential in preventing gum disease and infection. Be thorough but gentle when cleaning your teeth and gums. Brushing too forcefully, especially along the gums, can cause soreness and bleeding. 

Further complications include changes in taste, fatigue, malnutrition, mouth stiffness, jaw stiffness, tissue and bone loss, and swallowing problems. Dysphagia caused by cancer can increase the risk of other complications. 

Dental Treatment for Chemotherapy Patients

Practicing good dental hygiene and visiting your dentist regularly during chemotherapy can help protect your oral health. If you plan to undergo chemotherapy treatment, let us know so that we can help you prevent dental health complications. Contact Mettler and Griego Family Dentistry in Glendale to make an appointment today.

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash