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How to alleviate the effect of cancer therapies on oral health

Although each tumor and each cancer treatment is different for each patient, many times the side effects have an impact on oral health. These are the dentists’ advice as World Cancer Day approaches, on February 4.

Conventional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, can alter the balance of bacteria in the oral cavity and negatively impact oral health.

“Oncology patients may have immunosuppression and, therefore, a greater risk of bleeding, infection or serostomy or decreased salivation,” he explains to EFEsalud the president of the General Council of Dental Associations of Spain, Óscar Castro.

These cancer treatments usually affect oral health both bacterial and fungal infectionss (candidiasis) with mucosal changes or exacerbation of periodontal disease, especially inflammation of the gumsas well as the increase of caries.

According to Dr. Óscar Castro, “another effect of radiotherapy is the mandibular osteonecrosis” which is the affection of the bone, especially of the mandible, “because it is less supplied than the upper jaw and that is why it is more common in the mandible”.

But also the nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy it must make the patient pay special attention to their oral hygiene.

The loss of tasteanother side effect, it can make eating less pleasant and could lead to consuming a diet poor in nutrients, which also influences oral health, point out the experts from the Sermade dental clinic.

cancer dental health
EFE/Mariola Agulletes

The intervention of dentists

In this process, dentists can accompany the cancer patient so that the side effects on their oral health are not an added suffering.

“Dentists can help patients have a well-hydrated mouth, monitor hygiene, decide if they need a mouth guard so they don’t damage their mucous membranes or use certain mouthwashes, as well as relieve pain with the right medications ”, explains the doctor-stomatologist Óscar Castro.

The specialist advises that once the cancer treatment is finished, the patient continues with his check-ups including in the oral health units of the Public Health System.

How to address the effect of cancer treatment on oral health

The president of the General Council of Associations of Dentists of Spain, Óscar Castro, advises to improve oral health in the processes against cancer:

  • Visit the dentist which will help prevent, detect and alleviate these effects of drugs on oral health.
  • Maintain and extream the oral hygiene.
  • Bring one healthy diet and drink plenty of water to avoid dry mouth.
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco.
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