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Oral Care and Hygiene with Mesothelioma Treatment

According to the American Dental Association more than a third of cancer patients will suffer oral or dental complications caused by their cancer or its treatments. Though oral care may not be the first thing you think of during mesothelioma treatment, it is an important aspect of wellness.

Mesothelioma can affect your oral health in different ways, but you can take steps to minimize or prevent damage. Start by talking to your oncologist about risks, then make an appointment with your dentist to address any problems that could worsen with cancer treatment. Practice good oral hygiene while you get treatment to prevent damage and complications.

mesothelioma dental care

How Chemotherapy Affects Oral Health

Mesothelioma treatment may affect your oral health more than the cancer itself. Chemotherapy drugs injected into the bloodstream target and kill fast-growing cells. So they kill cancer cells, but also many healthy cells; this is one reason chemotherapy causes so many complications, including damage to the mouth, teeth, and gums. Possible oral complications you may experience from undergoing chemotherapy include:

  • Chemotherapy may cause a deep pain in the teeth that feels like a toothache, but is not.
  • Changes in taste and difficulty eating. Drugs used in chemotherapy can alter how food tastes and make eating and swallowing difficult. These side effects can lead to malnutrition and weight loss.
  • Oral mucositis. Ulceration and inflammation in the mouth that can cause pain and infections. Symptoms include sores that are painful, burn, or peel.
  • Dysfunction of the salivary glands. Damage to salivary glands causes mouth dryness, which in turn can cause infections in the mouth.
  • Bleeding. Chemotherapy drugs may cause bleeding in the gums because of a reduction in clotting factors.

Radiation and Oral Health

Radiation therapy for mesothelioma and other types of cancer is used to aim high-energy beams directly at tumors. This shrinks them by killing the cancer cells, but like chemotherapy drugs this radiation can be harmful to healthy cells. Radiation has the potential to cause many of the same complications in the mouth as chemotherapy, excluding bleeding and neurotoxicity.

Additionally radiation may increase the risk of developing tooth decay and cavities indefinitely after undergoing treatment. Radiation may also cause damage to muscles in the jaw, making chewing more difficult, and can cause bone death in the jaw that may be difficult to heal.

Visit the Dentist before Treatment

One of the most important things you can do for your oral health if you are going to be receiving treatment for mesothelioma, or any other type of cancer, is to make an appointment with your dentist. Your dentist will examine your mouth and find any problems that can be fixed ahead of treatment. Taking care of these now will help to prevent some of the complications of treatment and will help you feel more comfortable.

Good dental care ahead of treatment can also influence the effectiveness of cancer treatment. If oral side effects or complications become severe, treatment may need to be delayed while your mouth heals. If you go into treatment with good dental health, you have a better chance of being able to continue a full course of chemotherapy or radiation.

Practice Good Oral Hygiene During Treatment

It is also important to take good care of your mouth and teeth during cancer treatment. This includes being aware of the possible complications, checking your mouth regularly for any signs of damage, and checking in with your oncologist and dentist if you do see signs of side effects or you experience discomfort. Catching these problems earlier makes them easier to address and treat. Other steps you can take to keep your mouth health include:

  • Brush teeth regularly. Brush after every meal and use a soft toothbrush if you have discomfort. Use fluoride toothpaste to strengthen your tooth enamel.
  • Avoid mouthwash. Most mouthwash products contain harsh ingredients like alcohol that will cause more irritation.
  • Floss gently. Flossing may cause more bleeding and irritation, so try to do it gently and if it hurts or bleeds too much, take a break or avoid those areas that are most sensitive.
  • Keep your mouth moist. Dry mouth is a big problem with chemotherapy and can lead to a number of other problems, like infections. Drink plenty of water and suck on ice chips; chew sugarless gum; try saliva substitutes if these other measures still leave your mouth dry.
  • Eat soft, moist foods. Eating may become more difficult due to complications, so choose foods that are soft, moist, and easy to chew. Sip water between bites to help soften food even more. Avoid foods that irritate your mouth, including hot foods and drinks, caffeine, spicy foods, and acidic foods.
  • Check your dentures. If you wear dentures, make sure they have a good fit. Improperly fitted dentures can cause irritation to become worse.

Oral Care after Treatment

Once you have made it through treatment, keep up good dental care. Your treatment may have caused permanent damage or increased risk for cavities and infections. Continue to brush and floss regularly and see your dentist for checkups and cleanings. Eat a healthy diet and avoid smoking to keep your gums and teeth healthy.

Oral health is important because it affects other areas of health, your comfort and quality of life. Focusing on treatments for cancer is important, but you also need to address the complications caused by those treatments to stay healthy and pain-free. Take these important steps and always consult with your oncologist and dentist to make sure your oral health is as good as it can be while you go through treatment and after.


Page Edited by Dave Foster

Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available. Connect with Patient Advocate Dave Foster

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