I think it is important to take a look at a maybe overlooked side of care during a cancer patient’s journey.
I’m talking about dental care.
As you know going through cancer is extremely demanding on your body and its immune system, so this post I hope will shed some light on how to take care of your shiny whites.
First things first:
Make sure your dentists and hygienists are knowledgeable and experienced and if this is not the case you can get a referral into a hospital who have a special care dentistry department, particularly helpful if the patient needs a lot of work done prior to chemo.
So what happens to your mouth during treatment ?
Well to start with I think it is a good idea to see your dentist and have a general check up of your mouth, they will be looking for anything that is infected or could become infected during chemotherapy. I would say about two weeks before, so if there is anything that needs doing it gives your mouth time to recover.
It’s important to say that while seeing your dentist before your treatment is highly important, unfortunately not all side effects will be avoided but the fewer side effects you have the better.
During your treatment the chemotherapy which kills cancer cells can also harm good cells, some being in your mouth.
It can stop your mouth producing saliva (spit) so your mouth can become very sore and create ulcers.
At this point it may be even hard for you to swallow, talk (that was very hard for me) brush your teeth and even eat ( tube feeding might happen then but mainly during high dose or stem cell transplants).
Below is a list of things you can do to encourage saliva (spit)
drinking lots of water ( about 3 litres a day)
suck ice cubes
suck sugar free sweets or chew sugar free gum
there are also saliva substitutes available to help moisten your mouth
If you are able to brush your teeth during treatment use an extra soft toothbrush, it may also help to use warm water.
Replace the brush frequently to prevent infections
It’s important to brush after each meal and before bedtime.
Use a fluoride toothpaste
Try to floss gently once a day
To prevent lips cracking use Vaseline
Things to avoid during this time are neat spirits, tobacco, hot spices, garlic, onion, vinegar and salty food as they may irritate your mouth and also try to avoid acidic drinks such as juices and fizzy drinks.
With regards to mouthwashes first speak to your doctors to see what they recommend.
Mouthwashes containing chlorhexidine (Corsodyl®, Chlorohex® or Eludril®) can help to prevent infection. Benzydamine mouthwash (Difflam®) can be helpful as a local anaesthetic and can ease the discomfort caused by an inflamed mouth lining.
As you may know being sick may be a side effect of your treatment.
It is very important to rinse your mouth out straight away as the sick’s acidity can damage your mouth.
You should visit your dentist and hygienist regularly after your treatment, three monthly check ups are recommended.