When undergoing cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation, many patients experience oral complications such as xerostomia, or dry mouth. Cancer patients are at a higher risk of developing oral complications for many reasons, some include:
- Chemotherapy and radiation therapy slow or stop the growth of new cells, also hindering the ability of oral tissues to repair themselves.
- Radiation therapy may directly damage and break down oral tissue, salivary glands and bone.
- Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can upset the healthy balance of bacteria in the mouth.
Signs and Symptoms of Dry Mouth
- A sticky, dry feeling in the mouth
- Thick, stringy saliva
- Pain in the mouth or on the tongue
- Chapped lips or cracks at the corners of the mouth
- A dry, rough tongue
- Difficulty chewing, tasting, swallowing or talking
Relieving side effects of dry mouth is an important part of patient care during chemotherapy. Consult with your health care team about any dry mouth symptoms you experience, or any changes that occur in your oral health.
By taking preventive steps to manage oral complications, you can continue your cancer treatments while improving your quality of life. To maintain good dental hygiene during treatments, you can do the following:
- Brush gently with a soft-bristle toothbrush after meals
- Use a natural, organic toothpaste
- Floss carefully everyday
- Rinse with an alcohol-free mouthwash
- Drink sips of water often throughout the day
- Chew sugar-free gum
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods
Dry mouth can also cause other dental problems. Saliva helps maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the mouth, and without enough the bacteria can grow too quickly. This may cause infections and mouth sores.
Saliva works to wash away food particles and acids left in the mouth after eating. A lack of saliva can lead to gum disease and cavities. This is why it's important to visit the dentist regularly before, during and after any cancer treatments to identify problems before they develop.
The Dr. Brite alcohol-free, cleansing mouth rinse features Aloe Vera juice, which has antioxidant and antibacterial properties that help treat mouth ulcers and alleviate dry mouth symptoms. Give it a try and let us know what you think!