Cancer Care and your mouth

Cancer care and your mouth – this really should read mouth care for cancer patients! You will find a range of products here that help maintain your oral health and comfort before, during and after cancer treatment.

The Mouth Cancer Foundation has just published (March 2021) a new patient handbook for anyone with head and neck cancer. There is lots of great information for anyone with cancer. Find it here. 

Cancer therapy can take its toll on your oral health. The aim is always to try to have your mouth as healthy as possible before you start cancer treatment. This will mean you are less likely to suffer infections e.g. oral mucositis and other side effects.   If possible visit your dental team to have your mouth checked and personalised advise. If this is not an option why not use our oral health coaching service – Time Out For Teeth and have a chat to our oral health coach LeighGS who has experience of working with cancer patients.

Not everyone will get all side effects. While some are unavoidable most can be controlled if not prevented. Some of the side effects and possible consequences of cancer treatment include:

Dry mouth – probably the most common complaint for many. A dry mouth increases the risk of tooth decay and gum inflammation.

Ulceration and infection – oral mucositis

Burning sensation -affecting the soft tissues and tongue.

Altered taste – particularly if you have treatment for head and neck cancer.

Increased risk of tooth decay and gum inflammation. Tooth decay can often affect any exposed root surfaces and is usually related to extreme dryness in the mouth. Loss of saliva is a major challenge in maintaining good oral health – this also increases likelihood of inflamed bleeding gums.

Using dry mouth products – especially those with xylitol (which helps to prevent the bacteria that cause decay sticking to the teeth), can relieve many symptoms that are related to dry mouth issues. Learn more about dry mouth here. 

Use a toothpaste that doesn’t have a strong flavour and is non foaming (SLS) free but has high fluoride levels (1450ppm) can help prevent tooth decay and irritation to the soft tissues in the mouth.

Aim to get your oral health in good shape BEFORE you start cancer therapy if possible. Learn mors about the basics here.

Our good friend, dental hygienist Jocelyn (Joss) Harding has produced some leaflets – one for patients and one for carers which you can download and read here. 

Listen to Joss and oral health coach LeighGS talk about cancer care on Talking Teeth Thursday here.

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