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Chemotherapy and Your Teeth

Chemotherapy and Your Teeth


If you, or someone you know, has been diagnosed with cancer, you know that there are many concerns. When a person is diagnosed with cancer, not only do they worry about their cancer treatment, but likely a person has many other health concerns beyond his/her cancer. Dental care and eye care could top the list. Chemotherapy and your teeth are a valid concern. If you are asking “can having cancer affect your teeth,” Lincoln Family Dentistry has skilled, compassionate dentists right here in Lincoln, NE willing and ready to help you find the answer. In our article we’ll cover:

  • What can you take for dry mouth from chemotherapy? We’ve got some suggestions!

  • How can I take care of my teeth during chemo? We’ll discuss it here!

  • Can I have dental treatment while having chemotherapy? Medication management with your dentist to help you during chemotherapy.


Chemotherapy can indeed affect your teeth, dental health, and the condition of your smile. Radiation therapy and other chemotherapy drugs are able to harm the tissues that line your throat, lips, and inside of your mouth.  It is possible that you will develop small sores inside your mouth, like canker sores or cold sores. This irritation taking place inside your mouth is called “Mucositis” or “Stomatitis.” It will take time for those mouth sores to heal. Remember that it is important to let your dentist for cancer patients in Lincoln, NE know if you notice any changes. Especially those taking place inside your mouth. While total prevention of this side effect is not always possible, there are certain steps that you can take to help reduce the effects of chemotherapy and your teeth as well as irritation, bleeding, infection, and discomfort.

Chemotherapy and Your Teeth, Helping Relieve Dry Mouth

Mouthwash is inevitably good for your dental hygiene. However, when it comes to chemotherapy and your teeth, mouth washes that contain alcohol can cause serious dryness and stinging. A better option would be to consider using Biotene™, which is an alcohol-free mouthwash. If you wish, you can even make your own mouthwash. There are three different ways:

  • 1/4 tsp of table salt in 1 cup (8 oz.) of water
  • 1 tsp of baking soda in 1 cup (8 oz.) of water
  • 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of baking soda in 1 cup (8 oz.) of warm water

If you choose to make your own mouthwash, make a new one each day and shake it well before using it.

If you are experiencing severe dryness, it would help you enormously to drink many glasses of water or other liquids throughout the day.  When you are traveling away from home, always take a water bottle with you.  It may even help to suck on sugar-free hard candy or chew some sugarless gum.  Finally, do not hesitate to ask your dentist for cancer patients in Lincoln, NE about artificial saliva to keep your mouth moist.  Dry mouth is a common way that chemotherapy affects your mouth.

When you are drinking anything, try to use a straw.  This way, liquids are able to bypass the sores or other tender places in your mouth.  Also, it is a good idea to help your lips retain moisture.  It is ok to use lip moisturizers that have an oil base, like Chapstick® or Vaseline®, if you do not have any open areas on your lips.  If you do have open areas on your lips, you can use moisturizers known to be water soluble, such as  K-Y Jelly® or Surgilube®.

Chemotherapy and Your Teeth, Keeping Your Mouth Clean

Even if your mouth is tender or hurting, you must keep your teeth clean. If it is too uncomfortable to use a toothbrush, you can purchase disposable sponge swabs, such as those from Toothette®.  When using the swabs, gently rub your gums, tongue, and soft gum tissue. If your gums are sore or bleed when attempting to floss, go ahead and avoid it for the time being, especially if your platelet count is on the low side.

Discontinue using your dentures or dental plates while you are sleeping or if they do not fit well. Your dentist can adjust them or fix them if necessary.  When you are cleaning your dentures or dental plates, use those cleaners that are effervescent. These are the cleaners that bubble such as Efferdent®. Before wearing your dentures or dental plates, always rinse them very well.  You should never smoke, whether it be cigars, pipes, or cigarettes.  Do not drink alcohol or chew tobacco.  These substances will irritate your mouth if it is tender or sore.

You should continue to visit your dentist regularly. When you do, make sure to inform him or her of your cancer treatment and how it is progressing.  A conscientious dentist will let you know about all the ways that treatment can affect the body, especially chemotherapy and your teeth. Your dentist for cancer patients in Lincoln, NE will also discuss potential side effects that include the mouth in general.  Share with your dentist who your oncologist is and his or her contact information. Likewise, let your oncologist know about any dental work you and your dentist are considering undertaking.  Inform your oncologist of any cleanings, fillings, teeth pulling, gum procedures, dental implants, etc. It is important to maintain good oral health. Keeping the mouth clean to reduce exposure to potentially harmful bacteria, if your immune system is compromised, is essential.

Chemotherapy and Your Teeth, Managing Medications with the help of your Dentist for Cancer Patients in Lincoln, NE

Your dentist may choose to give you a prescription to numb your throat or mouth. These medicines can come in several different forms. They could be liquids or lozenges, or even sprays. You and your dentist may discuss taking medicine to help ease any discomfort you might be experiencing; make sure that you take this prescription 1-2 hours before eating meals. If this does not seem to be reducing the discomfort, try taking your medicine regularly throughout the day. Likely your dentist might strongly recommend timing the medications every 4-6 hours. Make sure to call your doctor if the discomfort is not lessening.

Your dentist for cancer patients in Lincoln, NE may also prescribe an antibiotic to treat or prevent infection inside the mouth.  These can be made in various forms. Some antibiotics are given in liquid form, and these are swished inside the mouth and throat. Others are applied right on the throat and mouth. Antibiotics can also be taken in pill form, swallowed by mouth.

Always, always take your medicine exactly as prescribed by your dentist. If you are experiencing changes, but are unsure if it is a side effect, read the Dental and Oral Health article from the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Ultimately, if you are experiencing changes and are unsure about what it may be and how to treat it, seek a professional opinion from your dentist for cancer patients in Lincoln, NE.

Finally, if any sort of bleeding becomes evident in the mouth, dip some gauze in ice water and apply pressure to the area. You can stop continuous bleeding by rinsing your throat and mouth with ice water. If you are undergoing treatment for cancer, know that your dentist for cancer patients in Lincoln, NE is willing to address chemotherapy and your teeth. He or she can also address the health of your mouth as a whole and guide you in maintaining your overall well-being. They offer affordable dental services to make sure you can maintain your oral health. Your comfort and dental health are our top priority!


The information on this page was written by Dr. Kelly O’Hara.

This gentle Lincoln, NE dentists says: “I perform gentle dentistry for the entire family and focus on children’s dentistry, extreme smile makeovers, cosmetic dentistry and placing mercury-free dental fillings. Moreover, I also want to provide a better quality of life to patients who have lost their teeth by making implant retained dentures. I have many goals, but one that is very important to many of us: to keep dentistry affordable by taking all of the primary dental plans and by also offering dental payment plans to patients that seek them. I am fully committed to making sure all patients feel comfortable while in my care.”

You can schedule with this Lincoln, NE dentist, or his partners, online 24/7 at a Lincoln Family Dentistry Location near you. This “dentist near me” serves the local communities close to Lincoln. Some of the communities include Eagle, Walton, Weeping Water, Avoca, and many more!


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