CANCER & ORAL CARE
A healthy mouth is less likely to develop oral complications during treatment.
- Visit your dentist for a thorough check-up (including x-rays) ideally a month before your treatment starts. This allows time to detect and treat underlying decay or infection. Optimally there should be at least two weeks between any dental surgery and starting treatment.
- If you wear dentures, check their fit to ensure they aren’t irritating the mouth. If you have orthodontic brackets (braces) it might be best to remove them for the duration and reapply once you complete treatment. It’s a very good idea to see the oral hygienist for a professional clean and polish after diagnosis, to remove any plaque and tartar build-up, and ensure your mouth is in tip-top shape at the start.
- Diet plays a role. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks, or very salty, spicy, cold, acidic or rough foods that may irritate or dry out your mouth. Oral bacteria thrive on sugar, so reduce it as much as possible and eat a nutritious, healthy diet with plenty of calcium and Vitamin D.
- If you experience nausea and vomiting don’t brush teeth immediately afterwards; stomach acid demineralises enamel and weakens teeth. Initially just rinse your mouth with water or an alcohol-free mouthwash like Dentyl Dual Action, then wait an hour or so before brushing.
The ideal daily oral care routine
Meticulous oral care is important during this time, to keep the mouth clean and prevent decay.
- Brush correctly at least twice a day for a full two minutes each time, right up to the gum line. A soft brush will be gentler and cleans just as effectively. Dipping the brush in warm water beforehand will soften the bristles. Strong tasting toothpastes may irritate the gums. Rather use a mild toothpaste or Olgani Naturals If you experience bleeding gums or infection, consider a treatment paste like Sunstar GUM Paroex Gel.
- Clean in-between the teeth daily. If you find floss too firm, try an interdental brush or gentle Sunstar GUM Soft-Picks. The oral hygienist can give you advice on which tools will work best for your mouth.
- After eating, or for extra freshness, rinse with an alcohol-free mouthwash. Dentyl Dual Action is oil-based and gently moisturising, with the same pH as saliva. Alcohol-based mouthwashes should be avoided, as alcohol will dry out already sensitive oral tissue.
- You may well feel extremely tired during treatment, try not to let that negatively impact your oral care routine. A quality electric toothbrush, like the Philips Sonicare powerbrush, will give a ‘supreme clean’ with minimum effort.
- With more than 400 commonly prescribed medications listing dry mouth as a potential side-effect, including many chemotherapy drugs, there’s a good chance you may experience reduced saliva flow at some point during your treatment. The lack of saliva makes swallowing, and even talking, difficult. In severe cases sufferers can become malnourished and lips become dry and cracked. Because saliva is the body’s way of keeping the mouth clean, plaque and bacteria build-up more quickly, increasing the likelihood of bad breath, gum disease and dental decay.
- Rehydrating the mouth is the number one priority. Drinking water will give temporary relief, and chewing gum can stimulate saliva flow. There are also medications that help produce saliva and gels; new Sunstar GUM Hydral Moisturising Gel and Moisturising Spray lubricate oral tissues, soothe irritation, promote soft tissue repair and create a protective coating in the mouth, giving longer lasting relief.
- Smoking is a big no-no for everyone, even more so if you suffer from dry mouth. Try sleeping in a room with a humidifier.
- Mouth ulcers can be painful because they expose sensitive nerve endings which can make drinking, eating, talking and cleaning your mouth uncomfortable. However, maintaining good oral hygiene at this time can promote quicker healing and will help keep your teeth and gums healthy.
- After eating, and before going to bed, rinse with an alcohol-free mouthwash like GUM Paroex or all-natural Olgani to promote healing. Drinking with a straw can help ‘bypass’ the ulcer.
- If you do experience any dental or oral side effects during your treatment, chat to a member of your healthcare team – such as your doctor, nurse or dental professional. Managing symptoms will help alleviate any pain and discomfort when eating, drinking and talking – a critical part of your care and recovery.
For expert oral care advice and recommended products speak to your dentist or oral hygienist.