DISCLOSURE: Noelle Copeland RDH is an Oral Care Specialist and Dental Consultant who provides content for Brilliant Oral Care and Baby Buddy.
Oral side effects are common in cancer patients. Therefore, preventing and controlling potential oral side effects helps them the most as they prepare and journey through this challenging season. In addition, cancer patients are more likely to continue their treatment as prescribed when the side effects are addressed early and prevented whenever possible. This preparation provides a better quality of life during this timeframe.
Oral mucositis is swelling and damage of the mucous membranes that line the inside of the mouth and affect other parts of the gastrointestinal tract. Oral mucositis induced by chemotherapy will self heal in 2 to 4 weeks when no infection is present.
Pain Relief for Mucositis
When the mouth lining is damaged and perforated, infections can occur more quickly when in conjunction with a weakened immune system. Oral mucositis damages the lining of the mouth, which provides a gateway for bacteria and viruses to get into the bloodstream quickly. In addition, chemotherapy weakens the immune system, so even good bacteria is a potential problem when there are wounds and open sores in the mouth. Finally, infections occur more often during chemotherapy as white blood cell counts get lower. Those with low white blood cell counts for long periods have a higher risk of serious infections—treating oral disease before chemotherapy is vitally important.
For patients who experience gum disease while also receiving chemotherapy, treatment may include:
The oral environment of the mouth normally contains fungi that can live in harmony there without causing significant issues. However, when the immune system changes the mouth too rapidly, fungi can overgrow and become an infection that has to be treated.
Candidiasis is a fungal infection common in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy and radiation.
Dry mouth occurs when salivary glands don't produce enough saliva. Salvia is essential and is needed for eating, swallowing, tasting, and chewing. It also contains enzymes, minerals, and nutrients that bathe and protect the teeth.
Loss of appetite can lead to malnutrition. With any cancer treatment, there is a risk of malnutrition. When the side effects are severe enough, patients may completely lose their desire to eat or may find eating too painful or may be plagued with nausea and vomiting that render food an unappealing afterthought.
Hiring a nutritional counselor may be the most practical option during this challenging season of therapy.
Every patient is different, and so is every body. So many factors affect how a person can handle cancer therapy—their environment, mentality, physicality, and spirituality all play major roles in active care and recovery. If you or anyone you know is going through the throes of chemotherapy or radiation, be sure they have a solid support team because when they are at their weakest physically, it is when they will need help the most.
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Be sure to check out our selection of specialty toothbrushes for individuals with special needs. This includes our silicone toothbrushes that make oral care easy to start. Our DINOSAUR, PENGUIN, and DUCK character sonic toothbrushes make oral care fun. And our special soft toothbrush with our most extensive bristle count and the softest texture brush we offer.
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