How does cancer care affect my mouth?
As mentioned in other sections of this blog, cancer therapies, including chemotherapy, head and/or neck radiation as well as other cancer therapies may lead to a variety of oral and dental manifestations, including mucositis (mouth sores) and oral infections.
Should I modify my oral hygiene during treatment?
Well, that depends on how you were caring for your teeth prior to starting therapy. I often recommend that all of my patients receive a dental prophylaxis (cleaning) before starting therapy. Additionally, it is important to brush your teeth at least twice daily with a fluoridated toothpaste and floss nightly. If your mouth is sensitive or sore, you may want to consider buying a fruit flavored toothpaste over a mint flavored one as well as avoiding a toothpaste that contains sodium lauryl sulfate (which produces the bubbles). Additionally, it may be helpful to rinse your toothbrush under hot water to soften the bristles in between brushing. If you do not floss regularly, your oncology team may recommend that you do not start flossing regularly now. Also, rinsing your mouth five times daily with a salt water and baking soda solution may not only help keep your mouth clean but may also provide relief if your mouth feels sore.
Lip dryness: how should I care for my lips?
A lip moisturizer may help alleviate dryness; however, you should avoid applying a moisturizing lip balm four hours prior to receiving radiation therapy to the head and neck.
How can I make swallowing easier if I have trouble swallowing?
Keeping your mouth moist will help to make swallowing easier. Additionally, moistening food with sauces, gravies, yogurt or water may also help. Hydrating throughout the day with liquids may also help as well as avoiding acidic and tart foods along with spicy foods.