It is necessary that you understand the importance of good oral hygiene and preventive care before, during, and after chemotherapy.

The purpose of chemotherapy is to reduce the growth of tumor cells.  Unfortunately, tissues in the mouth are affected by chemotherapy and special care should be taken to help prevent infections in the mouth.

Ways of preventing these problems start with an examination by a dentist.  If any dental procedures are necessary before chemotherapy, they usually can be done while the bone can heal properly.

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Common Side Effects

  • Dry Mouth is very common after the first week of therapy and may persist as a permanent effect.  This depends on how and what type of drugs are given.  This will vary from patient to patient.
  • Mouth Ulcers are a common occurrence during chemotherapy.  Sometimes, these ulcers are preventable by simple oral hygiene care and a cautious diet.  These may occur on the lips, tongue, and roof of mouth and inside the check.
  • Swollen gums are another side effect that may occur if tartar has accumulated around and below the gum line of your teeth.
  • Dental Abscesses can occur if broken or impacted teeth are present during chemotherapy.

Oral Hygiene

A soft toothbrush held like a pen can be used carefully during chemotherapy.  If the mouth is too sore to use a toothbrush, a folded square gauze pad can be moistened with water and gently wiped over the surfaces of the teeth and/ or gums instead.

Rinsing the mouth with a salt and soda solution will remove food and debris which tends to accumulate in the mouth.  (This is made by adding one teaspoon of salt and one teaspoon of baking soda to one quart of water).  This solution can be used as often as necessary to provide a clean oral environment.

Things to avoid

  • Avoid foods that have a rough consistency such as:  tortilla chips, fried foods, nuts, etc.
  • Avoid wearing complete dentures during chemotherapy, as this will promote nausea and vomiting.  Wearing dentures will also promote development of mouth ulcers
  • Avoid a prolonged dry mouth which may tend to develop during sleep.  Keep plenty of water at bedside.
  • Avoid carbonated beverages and juices that are acidic like grapefruit or orange juice.
  • Avoid high alcohol containing mouthwashes like Listerine or Scope.  Use only the salt and soda solution.
  • If vomiting occurs, rinse with soda and salt solution; this will neutralize the stomach acid.  Prolonged contact of stomach acid in the