Cancer and Dental Health : What are the oral side effects? | NFCR


Cancer and Dental Health

cancer and dental health

Did you know that cancer patients have a high risk of oral and dental complications?

It is no secret that chemotherapy, radiation, and other cancer treatments are often accompanied by a variety of mild to severe side effects. Many of these side effects can be seen, such as hair loss, or greatly impact one’s day-to-day life, such as fatigue. However, there are some side effects that are often overlooked. Dental and oral side effects are rarely spoken of in the cancer realm but pose a real threat to a patient’s overall wellbeing. While dry mouth or changes in taste seem far from ‘severe’, these side effects can lead to oral complications that make it difficult to hear, talk, chew, or swallow.

What causes oral and dental side effects?

Oral complications occur in approximately 40% of patients who receive chemotherapy, 80% of patients who have a stem cell transplant, and nearly all patients who receive radiation for head and neck cancer.

Chemotherapy drugs slow and/or stop the growth of fast-growing cells. This is extremely effective in combatting cancer cells, but there are some healthy cells that get caught in the crossfire. Cells in the mouth are by nature fast growing, so chemotherapy affects the ability of oral tissue to repair itself – ultimately resulting in mouth sores. Chemotherapy also disrupts the balance of good bacteria and bad bacteria in the mouth, making the patient more prone to infections and oral health issues. 

Patients who have a stem cell transplant face the risk of the transplanted donor cells attacking the patient’s body. This could cause mouth sores, dry mouth, pain from certain foods/flavors, difficulties swallowing, changes in taste, and tightness in the skin/lining of the mouth.

Radiation to the head and neck has the potential to directly damage oral tissue, salivary glands, and bones. These affected areas may scar or deteriorate, causing both short-term damage and long-term complications.

What are the oral side effects associated with cancer?

Like general cancer side effects, oral complications can vary from mild to severe. Patients may experience dry mouth, sores, thickened saliva, changes in taste, tooth decay, difficulty swallowing or chewing, difficulty opening the mouth, infection, bone disease, inflammation, or gum disease. Most of these side effects happen during cancer treatment but they can also commence after treatment ends. Though most oral side effects are not long-lasting or permanent, they can cause permanent damage.

How can permanent damage be prevented?

Most cancer patients have a lot on their plates dealing with their diagnosis, but that does not mean other health measures can be pushed to the side. Cancer patients should continue to regularly visit their dentist for routine appointments and discuss any oral side effects. Outside of routine appointments, patients should continue healthy oral habits, including regularly flossing, brushing, and eating healthily.

Are there products better suited for patients experiencing oral complications/side effects?

Patients may notice that their gums become more sensitive in response to oral side effects. EXXCL Oral Blue has a toothpaste and mouthwash that has been proven to be an effective, non-invasive, and painless solution for sensitive gums. Their products are excellent for cancer patients or others who experience sensitive gum issues. Not only does EXXCL Oral Blue deliver a game-changing product, but the company is also committed to supporting the cancer community. EXXCL Oral Blue is donating 10% of each sale to supporting cancer research initiatives.

Learn more about protecting your dental health here.

Additional Reads You May Enjoy:

Cancer: There’s An App for That (2020 Update)

Employment Rights for Cancer Patients, Survivors, and Caregivers

How to Lessen the Financial Burden of Cancer

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