How Cancer and Chemotherapy Affect Your Dental Health

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A cancer diagnosis — and all the treatments that come with it — can affect your body in ways you didn’t expect.


And that includes your dental health.


If you’re undergoing chemotherapy, it’s especially important to practice good oral hygiene and work with experienced dental professionals to prevent disease and infection.


In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, here’s how cancer and chemotherapy can impact your dental health, as well as some ways the compassionate team at Dream-Dentistry & Sleep Care in Quakertown, PA, can help ensure your teeth won’t be a distraction on your road to recovery. Give us a call today at (215) 804-4777.

Before You Start Chemotherapy


In order for chemotherapy to effectively slow and stop the spread of cancer, it’s important to do what you can to minimize risk of infection in other parts of your body. This includes making sure your dental health is in good shape before treatments even begin.

You should see your dentist one month before starting chemotherapy, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Not only can receiving any necessary dental treatments ahead of time help reduce risk of infection, it can even minimize some of the side effects associated with chemotherapy.


Here are some things that you can do before treatment begins:


  • Ask your dentist about supplemental treatments that, when used with regular brushing and flossing, can curb cavities. This could include fluoride treatments or the use of dental sealants, which are thin, plastic coatings usually applied to the back of premolars and molars — where decay often starts.
  • Fill existing cavities.
  • Treat gum disease. In its early stages, a mild form of gum disease called gingivitis — caused by bacterial growth in the mouth — can result in gum inflammation and bleeding. Left untreated, however, it can become periodontitis, which causes gumline recession and requires your immune system to work harder to fight bacteria spreading below the gumline.
  • Remove infected teeth. Sometimes, this is the best option when a tooth or the tissue surrounding it have sustained substantial damage.
  • Restore crowns and bridge work. This will help you avoid difficulty or discomfort while eating.


Of course, it’s also important to maintain healthy habits in the lead-up to treatment: brushing and flossing regularly, eating well-balanced meals, and avoiding tobacco use.


Let Dream-Dentistry & Sleep Care help you as you begin your cancer treatment. Our office, conveniently located less than 20 miles from Allentown, offers regular cleanings and exams, root canals, crowns, bridges, minimally invasive and non-surgical solutions to gum disease, and more. Give us a call today at (215) 804-4777 to schedule an appointment.

During Chemotherapy Treatment


Chemotherapy may cause mild to severe side effects that impact your dental health, and there are also special considerations when visiting the dentist throughout the course of your treatment.


Be sure to consult with your cancer team prior to dental exams or procedures — particularly if you have a port under your skin for receiving medication or feeding, or if you’re taking anti-blood clotting medications.


Here are some common side-effects of chemotherapy that your dentist might be able to help you with, according to the American Dental Association.


  • Mouth sores. Chemotherapy is intended to kill rapidly growing cells, like cancer cells, but healthy cells are sometimes damaged in the process. Your dentist may be able to suggest a topical treatment or painkiller, which will either protect the sores or numb affected areas.
  • Dry mouth. There are things like artificial saliva and other measures that prevent risk of tooth decay caused by dry mouth.
  • Sensitive gums or gum disease
  • Jaw and facial pain. This can be caused by inflammation and scarring — particularly if you’re receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatment in the area near your jaw and face. This can also be caused by tooth grinding that often accompanies stress.
  • Infection. Chemotherapy lowers your body’s ability to fight off disease and infection.


After Chemotherapy Treatment


It’s important to maintain a regular dental checkup schedule and practice healthy oral hygiene habits throughout your recovery process. Brush and floss regularly — don’t forget your tongue — and rinse your mouth often to reduce risk of dental infection.


Remember: maintaining a healthy mouth will help your overall health. You can do this by making sure fillings, crowns, and other dental work are working properly.


Our team of experts can help you catch problems before they worsen and work with you toward better health. Call Dream-Dentistry & Sleep Care at (215) 804-4777 to schedule an appointment.