Taking Charge of Your Health

If you or someone you know is being
treated for cancer, it’s helpful to know that more than a third of all cancer
patients develop complications that affect the mouth. Cancer and it’s
treatments often weaken the immune system if your mouth is not as healthy
as possible prior to your cancer treatment you may be more likely to get
an infection. If the infection is serious, it can even delay your cancer treatment
and recovery. So make sure your dentist is a part of your cancer care team. Being
mouth healthy before, during and after cancer treatment could help lessen some
side effects and allow you to focus on your overall healing. You may experience
mouth sores sensitive gums or gum disease. Chemotherapy and radiation work
to destroy rapidly growing cells throughout the body. Unfortunately they
also destroy some healthy cells in your mouth. Your dentist may be able to
recommend topical treatments to protect the source or prescribed
anti-inflammatory or steroid rinses for your gums. You should carefully brush
twice a day with an extra soft toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste.
Gently floss once a day and rinse your mouth often with water and baking soda,
which is also very helpful after vomiting to keep acids from damaging the
enamel of your teeth. Dry mouth is another common side effect
because certain medications, chemo and radiation can greatly reduce the amount
of saliva produced by directly affecting the salivary glands. In addition to
regular brushing and flossing, your dentist may recommend artificial saliva
to help with the dry mouth and a fluoride rinse to prevent cavities
caused by dry mouth. Jaw and facial pain is a common side effect, especially if
you have radiation therapy near your head or neck. It can cause inflammation
and scarring around the jaw muscles. Another source of jaw pain maybe tooth
grinding, often associated with stress. If that’s the case talk to your dentist
about treatment options which may include muscle relaxants, exercises and
anti-inflammatory medications. The health of your mouth is an important part of
your overall health and that’s why it’s important to include your dentist on
your cancer care team. To learn more about taking care of your teeth and gums

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