Cancer Treatments and Your Oral Health

Did you know that cancer treatments can have an adverse affect on your oral health? Your oral cavity is a balance of good and bad bacteria and if that balance is disrupted, which cancer treatments can do, it can cause problems with your oral health. Side affects from the cancer medications as well as common meds seniors take can cause dental problems. In today’s blog, your Lake Forest Dentist, Dr. Fondriest, explains why, and gives you tips to help combat them.


Chemotherapy treatments consist of very strong drugs developed to kill cancer cells. The problem with chemotherapy is that the drugs cannot discriminate between good cells and bad cells. Therefore, healthy cells can be killed right along with the cancer cells. The same thing goes on inside your mouth. By killing off good bacteria and healthy cells in your mouth, chemotherapy treatments can cause issues with all aspects of your oral cavity including your teeth, gums, saliva, and soft tissues. When the delicate balance in your mouth is disrupted, it can be painful to eat, swallow, and talk–actions you take for granted every day. Chemotherapy treatments can also leave you vulnerable to oral infections.  Be aware that the following problems may develop:

  • Change in taste
  • Dry mouth
  • Painful mouth and inflamed or dark gums
  • Burning, peeling, or swelling of the tongue
  • Oral infections

Diet changes

A diet rich in leafy green vegetables has a decreased risk of developing oral cancer and the antioxidants probably fend off cancer growth.

How to Combat the Effects of Cancer Treatments

You can take the following steps to keep your mouth healthy during cancer treatments:

  • Brush after every meal and before bed using an extra-soft bristled toothbrush.
  • Brush your tongue, teeth, and gums with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Rinse with a non-alcoholic mouthwash.
  • Using ¼ teaspoon each of baking soda and salt in one quart of warm water, rinse your mouth several times a day. Follow with a plain water rinse.
  • Keep your mouth moist by drinking water, sucking on ice chips, chewing sugar free gum, sucking on hard sugar-free candy, and/or using a saliva substitute.

Learn more about the affects of cancer treatment on oral health

Aside from providing dependable general and restorative dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriest also holds respected academic appointments at the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, FL, and the Spear Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, and he is a former adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. At Lake Forest Dental Arts, Dr. Fondriest combines his impressive array of experience with modern technology and caring, compassionate, knowledgeable staff, and we proudly serve patients from surrounding communities. To schedule a consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.