Taking Care of Yourself During Cancer Treatment
Cancer treatments impact significantly on the whole body, and this is an unavoidable part of the process. Supporting your body during this difficult time will improve the efficacy of the treatments, enhance your recovery, and help you to feel stronger during the process.
Resistance to disease is a primary concern during this time. Maintaining balanced oral health will spare your immune system the extra work of fighting oral infections. If you are looking at cancer treatment, getting on top of your oral health will help you feel more prepared.
At Coburg Dental Group, our dentists and hygienists are experienced in providing care, education and support to cancer patients.
Dental Treatment for Cancer Patients
Dental treatment for cancer patients involves the treatment of pre-existing conditions as well as the treatment of oral diseases or complications which can arise from radiation treatment or chemotherapy along the way.
Pre-treatment Oral Care and Evaluation
Your oral health care program will begin before your cancer treatments do. This will allow you access to an experienced dentist, hygienist, and dental therapist for a thorough oral evaluation. Getting things sorted early on will support you to achieve the best possible outcomes from your treatment.
Let’s take a look at how Pre-treatment oral care can help:
- It allows for prompt identification and treatment of existing infections or other problems
- Reduces the risk and severity of oral complications
- Supports patients to successfully complete cancer treatment
- Prevents, eliminates, or reduces oral pain
- Minimises oral infections that could lead to potentially serious systemic infections
- Prevents or minimises complications that compromise nutrition
- Prevents or reduces later occurrence of bone necrosis
- Preserves or improves oral health
- Provides an opportunity for patient education about oral hygiene during cancer therapy
- Improves the quality of life
- Decreases the cost of care
With this oral evaluation, the dentists can identify and treat problems such as infection, fractured teeth or restorations, or periodontal disease. These pre-existing conditions could create further oral complications when cancer therapy begins.
What does an Oral Care Plan look like?
Before the cancer treatment, the dentist will take the following steps:
- Identify and treat existing infections, caries, and other compromised teeth, as well as tissue injury or trauma.
- Stabilise or eliminate potential sites of infection
- Extract teeth that are non-restorable or may pose a future problem.
Instructions for using Supplemental Fluoride
Supplemental fluoride can be used to strengthen and protect your teeth at this time. Here are some tips on how to use it most successfully.
If you are using a tray:
- Place a thin ribbon of fluoride gel in each tray
- Place the trays on the teeth and leave in place for 10 minutes. If gel oozes out of the tray, it simply means you are using too much
- After 10 minutes, you can remove the trays and spit out the excess gel. Remember not to rinse at this stage.
- Give the applicator trays a good rinse with water.
- Wait for 30 minutes before eating or drinking.
If you are using a brush-on method:
- After you have brushed with toothpaste, go ahead and rinse as usual.
- Place a thin ribbon of gel on the toothbrush.
- Brush for 2-3 minutes.
- You can now spit out any excess gel, but do not rinse at this time.
- Wait for 30 minutes before eating or drinking.
Oral Care During Cancer Treatment
Once you have taken some preparatory steps with your oral health, it is important to maintain them optimal oral health during your cancer treatment. The Coburg Dental Group team will offer support and education during your visits, to help you with this. In addition to looking after your teeth, you can support your oral health by making sure you nourish yourself with good foods and avoid tobacco, alcohol, and soft drinks.
Careful monitoring of your oral health during cancer therapy will prevent, detect, and treat any complications that pop up as soon as possible.
During cancer treatment, you can make a few changes to your oral care routine. Here are some tips.
- Brush teeth, gums, and tongue gently with an extra-soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste after every meal and before bed. If brushing hurts, soften the bristles in warm water.
- Floss teeth gently every day, even if gums are sore or bleeding.
- Follow the instructions for using fluoride gel. This will help to prevent tooth decay and reduce sensitivity.
- Avoid mouthwashes containing alcohol, as these are too harsh.
- Rinse the mouth with a baking soda and salt solution, followed by a plain water rinse several times a day. (Use 1/4 teaspoon each of baking soda and salt in 1 litre of warm water.) Omit salt during mucositis.
- Exercise the jaw muscles 3 times a day to prevent and treat jaw stiffness from radiation. Open and close the mouth as far as possible without causing pain, and repeat 20 times.
- Avoid confectionery, gum, and soft drinks unless they are sugar-free.
- Avoid spicy or acidic foods, toothpicks, tobacco products, and alcohol.
It might seem like a lot to remember, but gently moving through these steps each day will keep your oral and systemic health strong.
Make sure to keep the appointment schedule recommended by your dental clinic and approach your dental care team with any questions or concerns along the way.
For more information about oral health care during cancer treatments, or for any other enquiries, Contact us today.