If you have cancer or a cancer-related condition, chances are that your oral health is at risk. Cancer can be related to conditions ranging from infections to gum disease and pain in the jaw.
Oral, pancreatic and lung cancer are the most common culprits for causing oral health complications.
How cancer can affect your oral health
Cancer causes oral health complications before, during and after treatment. For example, there's a strong link between pancreatic cancer and periodontal disease. Patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are at higher risk of having periodontal disease and related oral health complications.
Cancer primarily affects your oral health by making your immune system weaker. A weakened immune system is less effective at fighting off infections that affect your teeth and gums. In particular, plaque can easily accumulate in the mouth and gums, affecting your oral health. Cancer may also result in bone loss (or weakened bones) and, as a result, a weaker jaw.
The good news is that there are several steps you can take to protect your oral health, even with a cancer diagnosis.
1. Avoid using tobacco products
Tobacco is known to affect your oral health in many ways. In general, tobacco products increase your risk of gum disease, plaque and weakened teeth. The chemicals contained in cigarettes also expose your mouth to infections. The best approach is to avoid tobacco products while undergoing treatment for cancer.
2. Eat the right foods
Dietary choices can significantly affect your oral health. Make sure you eat the right foods that strengthen your enamel, bones and gums. Some good choices include fruits (such as apples, oranges and kiwis), proteins (eggs, beef and poultry products) and dairy products (such as milk and yoghurt).
3. Prevent the accumulation of plaque
If you have cancer and you're undergoing treatment, plaque can affect your oral health. Plaque is formed when bacteria in the mouth combine with food products. Plaque eventually forms tartar, a compound that causes inflammation and irritation to the gums.
To prevent plaque building up in your mouth, limit consumption of highly sugary foods. Also, ensure that you brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day. Basic oral hygiene can go a long way towards keeping your mouth healthy.
4. Visit your dentist before and after every cancer treatment
Various cancer treatments (such as chemotherapy) can weaken your immune system and increase the risk of infection. Make sure you consult your dentist before receiving any cancer treatment.
Your dentist will check your teeth for any current infections, loose teeth or cavities that may need to be filled prior to receiving cancer treatment.