5 Ways Cancer Affects Your Mouth And Dental Health

by Derek Edison

Cancer has, for a long time, been a pandemic among humans. What most people don't know is that a considerable number of cancer patients often end up with dental health problems before, during, and after treatment. Cancer is a severe and sometimes fatal disease, and people often ignore anything minor to focus on their cancer treatment plan. 

5 Ways Cancer Affects Your Mouth And Dental

It is, however, not a good idea to let your dental health get worse since this may lead to more complications. In such a scenario, the complications may end up interfering with the treatment.That is why dentists always advise cancer patients to mind their dental health if they want to have smooth cancer treatment without any complications.

If you have no idea about the relationship between cancer and your dental health, worry not. Below is a detailed list of five ways through which cancer can affect your dental health. The information also contains some of the best ways to prevent or treat the various problems that may arise. All you have to do is make sure you consult your doctor so that he or she may help you prevent and keep them from interfering with your cancer treatment.

Mouth sores

One of the main effects that you are likely to experience once you begin cancer treatment is mouth sores. The problem can either be mild or severe, depending on your body's reception to the procedure. If you are unlucky, the lesions can be worse, rendering you to stop your cancer treatment as the doctors find a way to deal with the problem. Cancer-related mouth sores tend to form on the lining inside your mouth. The sores may end up causing eating and breathing problems if you don't take caution. Sometimes the wounds extend to your esophagus, making it hard for you to swallow any food or even saliva. At this stage, you might not be even able to talk, and the doctor may end up discontinuing your cancer treatment.

So, what causes these mouth sores? The sores can happen by either radiotherapy or chemotherapy, which are the two leading cancer treatments. It may be one of the procedures or both depending on your body's response to the treatments. Both radiotherapy and chemotherapy are supposed to kill the fast-growing cancer cells, but sometimes they may end up damaging the cells in your mouth lining. Doing so leads to sores forming in your mouth and once that meets your weak immune system, it may spread to other parts of the mouth as well. The dental doctor will have to treat or minimize the sores before you can continue with your cancer treatment.

Dry mouth

Most cancer patients start experiencing dry mouth soon after they begin their cancer treatment. The leading cause of the problem is radiotherapy and chemotherapy, especially if they perform the procedure on the head, including neck and face. The treatment can end up damaging your salivary glands, thus leading to several problems such as sticky saliva or thick saliva and at times, a parched mouth. It may take you some time for your salivary glands to start producing saliva. While some find relief from the condition after six months, others may go up to a year. It is one of the common effects of cancer to your mouth that you can prevent.

5 Ways Cancer Affects Your Mouth

As soon as you start experiencing this problem, you have to consult your doctor. He or she is going to initiate palliative care, which is usually part of the cancer treatment. You are going to take certain medicines such as amifostine. The medication tends to be effective when it comes to lessening the side effects of cancer. You can also get saliva substitutes to help you handle the problems that come with dry mouth. Some patients chew sugarless gums, which act as saliva stimulants. Doing so helps your salivary glands to regain their function, and this may end up preventing dry mouth. You can also manage dry mouth by performing dental floss at least once a day, drinking water sips from time to time and use artificial saliva to soften your mouth. These can also help you to relieve the effects of dry mouth.

Tooth decay

Another way that cancer can affect your mouth and dental health is by causing tooth decay. Most people who end up with this problem usually don’t inform their doctors as soon as they started having dry mouths. Why? Cancer patients who exhibit tooth decay first start by having a dry mouth. If this problem is not taken care of or managed by the patient, tooth decay occurs. Dry mouth leads to a lack of saliva, which is very important in keeping food remains from your teeth. The longer the food remains on the tooth, the more bacterias form. It then leads to tooth decay, which causes tooth cavities in the long run.

There is, however, a way you can prevent tooth decay even with a dry mouth. To do so, you need to start brushing your teeth after every meal. Maintaining this routine is going to prevent any plaque or food from remaining on your teeth long enough to cause any decay. You should also drink plenty of water and make a habit of swirling it around your mouth before spitting or swallowing. Try and chew sugarless gum to stimulate your saliva glands. You can also see the doctor so that he or she can examine your dental condition. The doctor will recommend the best ways or medicines that can help you avoid tooth decay during your radiotherapy or chemotherapy. It is among the many ways on how cancer affects your dental health. So always be on the lookout to avoid such an issue.

In some cases where an extensive dental procedure is required, the dentist might put you on IV sedation, which is entirely safe.

Tooth sensitivity

There are so many things that can lead to tooth sensitivity, and one of them is cancer treatment. By now, you should be aware that radioactive rays can be quite destructive, especially when you are undergoing radioactive therapy on the face and neck. Harmful radiations can penetrate your gums and cause sensitive teeth. The rays can also cause tooth decay which can lead to cavities. Once the holes go deeper and reach the nerves, you will start experiencing tooth sensitivity. Most times, tooth sensitivity worsens whenever the affected tooth or teeth encounter cold or warm foods. These end up triggering the nerve endings, which send a signal to the brain, causing pain.

The good news is that you can prevent your tooth cavity from extending further by brushing your teeth after every meal and rinsing your mouth more often. You can also communicate with your doctor and see if he or she recommends removing the affected teeth. That, however, happens if you take too long to inform the doctor, thus giving the teeth more time to decay. If you notify your doctor before you commence with your cancer treatment, he or she may come up with a preventative measure. That includes giving you a gel that slips between your teeth, making them strong, thus preventing cavities and exposure of your nerves.


Osteoradionecrosis is also called the death of the bone. It is a rare dental health problem but very easy to end up with, especially if you don't inform your doctor of the dental procures you have done. For instance, if you have undergone tooth or teeth extraction or any other dental procedure that involves the jaw bone, you are likely to experience Osteoradionecrosis. The radioactive rays can end up damaging the blood vessels around the bone, causing it to die. The dental problem often occurs after the completion of your cancer treatment. It is prevalent in the lower bone since the jaw tends to have fewer blood vessels.

To know if you have contracted the mouth problem, look out for symptoms such as swelling, pain, ulcers in the jaw, infection, and sometimes an exposed bone inside the mouth. To prevent Osteoradionecrosis, your doctor has to examine your teeth and see if there is a risk of getting the dental problem. In case you have a tooth that requires removal, you should do so before you start your cancer treatment. You should also have regular gum examinations to ensure that everything is fine. The doctor may recommend you to switch your diet; for instance, he or she may want you to avoid sugary foods. By doing so, you are going to prevent Osteoradionecrosis during and after your cancer therapy.

5 Ways Cancer Affects Your Mouth And Dental Health

Those are so far the five most common ways cancer affects your dental health. Each of the above ways can develop into something much worse if you don't take proper steps during cancer treatment. You should thus liaison with your doctor so that you know how best to prevent the problem or keep it from worsening. In case you require any dental surgery, make sure you do it before cancer treatment. That way, you don’t risk to get Osteoradionecrosis, which is quite a severe dental problem. 

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Mouth sores caused by cancer treatment: How to cope

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Author Bio
Derek Edison is a blogger and writer, a generalist who likes to share information he has gathered in
various fields over the years in an engaging manner.

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