Planning chemo?  See your dentist

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How healthy your mouth is before chemotherapy can play a critical role in whether or not you develop the harsh side effects of treatment.  So it’s a great idea to bring your dentist aboard your treatment team as soon as you know that you have to undergo chemotherapy to allow her enough time to give you a full dental examination and to perform necessary tests and/or procedures.  She can quickly spot and treat the early stages of decay and disease now that could mushroom into a full-blown infection during chemotherapy.  If the infection becomes very serious and difficult to treat, your oncologist could halt your chemotherapy sessions until the infection can be brought under control.  Seeing your dentist in advance of chemotherapy is also a great time to have ill-fitting oral appliances, like dentures, adjusted for a better fit.

 Serious infections are not the only thing to watch out for.  Other potential side-effects of chemotherapy are:

  •  gum pain
  • swelling and peeling of the tongue
  • dry mouth
  • oral sores and ulcers


Unfortunately, even with a healthy mouth prior to chemotherapy, you can still develop oral thrush due to a weakened immune system.  If left un-checked, this condition has the potential to spread to other organs of the body.  Your dentist can be of great assistance in treating oral thrush, which may cause:


  • curd-like patches in the mouth
  • burning
  • bleeding
  • bad breath
  • changes in taste
  • sensitivity to spicy/acidic foods
  • soreness
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Once chemotherapy begins, you can help to protect your teeth and the delicate tissues of the mouth by:

  • staying well-hydrated
  • avoiding alcohol-based mouthwash
  • steering clear of foods that can scrape or otherwise irritate mouth tissue
  • using a toothbrush with extra-soft bristles
  • gently flossing healthy teeth and gums
  • cutting back on cavity-causing sweets
  • cutting back on caffeinated beverages, which are dehydrating


Tell your oncologist and dentist immediately if changes to the teeth, gums, and mouth appear while undergoing chemotherapy.   Pain can be managed, and potential problems can be caught before spiraling to a point where they impact your cancer therapy.