Cancer and Your Teeth

In 2007, it was announced that scientists had discovered a link between poor oral hygiene and pancreatic cancer. That may seem a far stretch, but the numbers didn’t lie. Since then, dental complications have been tied to many serious illnesses, which give the average American even more reason to schedule regular appointments with the dentist. But, what about the effects on the teeth when receiving treatment for cancer? The truth is that it is a two-way street. The health of your teeth and gums can affect the rest of your body and what is happening to other areas of it can play a big role in how healthy your teeth are.

Radiation Treatment for Cancer When receiving radiation treatments in the neck or head region, the teeth can be directly impacted. First and foremost, the procedure can result in pain or discomfort, which leads to difficulty eating, talking, swallowing, and brushing. It can also leave you at a great risk of an oral infection. Not only will that mean several meetings with your Austin dentist it can also be a major risk to the cancer treatment plan and to your overall health. If the dental problems persist, you will likely have to discuss the option to spread out the radiation treatments.

Signs of Trouble with Radiation Though not all of these are ‘red flags’ to the dental community, they are reason to speak with your dentist. Dry mouth, an increased number of cavities, loss of taste, sore gums, signs of infections, jaw stiffness, and even changes to the jaw bone might be seen as a result of the intensive treatments. The dentist can discuss proper care to avoid many of these complications.

Chemotherapy and Oral Hygiene Just like radiation, chemotherapy can wreak havoc in your mouth. The need for regular dental care during your treatments is paramount. The medications used in the process of treating the cancer can lead to increased oral pain. The concerns with chemotherapy are often the same as what is seen with radiation patients; undergoing both means that your risk of mouth-related complications is increased further.

Signs of Trouble with Chemotherapy Again, these symptoms do not necessarily mean that there is a significant problem within the mouth, but all should be immediately discussed with the dentist. If you find that you have soreness in or around your mouth or you suffer from dry mouth, if you note swelling or burning of the tongue, if you experience the symptoms of infection or have a change in taste then make a call to the dentistas soon as possible.

There are a few things that you can do to keep your mouth as healthy as possible during your cancer recovery. Drink a lot of water or suck on ice chips to avoid dry mouth and wash away bacteria. Chew sugarless gum to remove food particles and keep the surface of the teeth clean during the day. Furthermore, it is important, even when feeling ill, to practice proper oral hygiene. Brush regularly with a fluoride toothpaste, use mouthwash to reach into areas the brush can’t, and floss between teeth daily. If soreness becomes an issue, choose the foods you eat carefully. Pick those that are soft and easy to choose. Follow all meals with a glass of water to soothe your mouth and wash away the remaining food particles.


Austin Dental Center, PC
2304 Hancock Dr. Suite 1

Austin, TX 78756-2537

(512) 454-0414

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