Take care of your teeth during cancer treatment: World Cancer Day (4 February)

4 February 2016

As part of this year’s World Cancer Day (4 February), the Australian Dental Association (ADA) wants to provide tips about how cancer patients and people living with cancer can take care of their dental health.

World Cancer Day’s primary objective is to raise as much awareness and discussion about cancer as possible. World Cancer Day’s “We Can. I Can” theme focuses on how everyone can play their part to reduce the burden of cancer and will continue over 2016-18.

Dr Peter Alldritt, Chair of the ADA's Oral Health Committee, said: “We urge cancer patients and people living with cancer to be aware of the possible oral health side effects that could arise during and after treatment. There are a number of simple things that patients can do to make their experience of treatment that little bit easier.” 

While it’s understandable that receiving treatment for cancer will be a patient’s main priority, it is also important they attend a consultation with their dentist about their diagnosis as soon as they can. A full assessment and determination of any dental treatment required prior to undergoing cancer treatment should occur a few weeks beforehand so that teeth and gums are healthy and healed well in advance.

Dr Alldritt continued: “Chemotherapy and radiation treatment can have side effects on the teeth and gums, such as soreness and ulcers in the mouth, gum infections, bleeding gums, dry mouth and altered taste. These oral complications may persist for months or years afterwards depending on the type of cancer treatment provided. Your dentist will be able to offer advice or prescribe dental products to reduce the severity of these complications.”

All cancer patients and people living with cancer can take the following steps to minimise the effects of dry mouth during and after cancer treatment:

  • Sip water frequently;
  • Avoid sticky, sugary foods and drinks;
  • Avoid acidic foods and beverages;
  • Minimise caffeine intake, as this adds to dehydration;
  • Avoid dry, coarse and hard foods or anything spicy;
  • Chew sugar-free gum to help stimulate saliva flow; and
  • Use a dry mouth gel or spray, which helps to moisten the mouth.
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