Cancer and the Dentist: Protect Your Mouth During Cancer Treatment. This guide is part of a series on managing and preventing oral complications of cancer treatment developed by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research in partnership with the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Nursing Research, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
|1 – Feel better||Cancer treatment can cause side effects in your mouth. A dental checkup before treatment starts can help prevent painful mouth problems.|
|2 – Save teeth and bones||A dentist will help protect your mouth, teeth, and jaw bones from damage caused by head and neck radiation and chemotherapy. Children also need special protection for their growing teeth and facial bones.|
|3 – Fight cancer||Serious side effects in the mouth can delay, or even stop, cancer treatment. To fight cancer best, your cancer care team should include a dentist.|
|Brush gently, brush often||
|Floss gently—do it daily||
|Keep your mouth moist||
|Eat and drink with care||
|Stop using tobacco||
Take a moment each day to check how your mouth looks and feels.
Call your cancer care team when
- you first notice a mouth problem.
- an old problem gets worse.
- you notice any changes you’re not sure about.
Sore Mouth, Sore Throat
To help keep your mouth clean, rinse often with 1/4 teaspoon each of baking soda and salt in 1 quart of warm water. Follow with a plain water rinse. Ask your cancer care team about medicines that can help with the pain.
Rinse your mouth often with water, use sugar-free gum or candy, and talk to your dentist about saliva substitutes.
Call your cancer care team right away if you see a sore, swelling, bleeding, or a sticky, white film in your mouth.
Your cancer care team can help by giving you medicines to numb the pain from mouth sores and showing you how to choose foods that are easy to swallow.
If your gums bleed or hurt, avoid flossing the areas that are bleeding or sore, but keep flossing other teeth. Soften the bristles of your toothbrush in warm water.
Stiffness in Chewing Muscles
Three times a day, open and close your mouth as far as you can without pain. Repeat 20 times.
Rinse your mouth after vomiting with 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda in 1 cup of warm water.
Brush your teeth after meals and before bedtime. Your dentist might have you put fluoride gel on your teeth to help prevent cavities.
Oral Health, Cancer Care, and You
This guide is part of a series on managing and preventing oral complications of cancer treatment developed by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research in partnership with the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Nursing Research, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Other publications in this series include:
For Health Professionals
- Oral Complications of Cancer Treatment: What the Oral Health Team Can Do
- Dental Provider’s Oncology Pocket Guide
- Oral Complications of Cancer Treatment: What the Oncology Team Can Do
- Oncology Pocket Guide to Oral Health