Dental and oral issues are common side effects of medical treatments in cancer patients. It usually affects the patient’s mouth, teeth and salivary glands, making it difficult to eat, talk, chew, or swallow. However, we can tackle these side effects with proper care. Cancer treatments can often cause various side effects, such as:
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy can cause side effects like mouth sores and pain in the teeth & gums, among others. However, these side effects usually stop after your treatment.
Radiation therapy: Radiotherapy on the head and neck region can alter the consistency of the saliva. This further increases the risk of developing gum diseases and tooth decay.
Targeted therapies: Certain targeted therapies use specific drugs to stop the spread of cancer cells to the bones. This can lead to various side effects, such as medication-related osteonecrosis of the jaw, which results in weakened jaw bones, bone loss, pain, infection and loose teeth.
Common questions that patients ask
- What are some symptoms of dental and oral issues that are caused by cancer?
During cancer, there can be slight gingivitis or a mild form of gum disease. The patients may also experience swelling along with metallic pigmentation in the mouth. Another premalignant condition is “oral submucous fibrosis”. This condition restricts the patient from opening their mouth and is most common in people who chew Gutka. They may also experience burning sensations and color changes in the mouth.
Due to continuous smoking, the mouth’s palate turns black, which is medically called a smoker’s palate and is a premalignant condition.
- What are the common dental & oral side effects caused by cancer treatments, and how can they be resolved?
Cancer treatments can usually cause fungal infections in the mouth, which is very common among diabetic patients. Antifungal medications, usually steroid ointments, are applied in the affected area to combat this. These medications help cure infections & clear up the white patches that form in the mouth.
- Are there any treatments for mouth ulcers?
Generally, we suggest patients perform oil pulling with extra virgin cold-press coconut oil every morning on an empty stomach. This is because coconut oil has antibacterial & antifungal properties, which will help maintain oral hygiene. When patients have ulcers, washing mouths with water, baking soda and salt after every meal is recommended to reduce the risk of infections and to maintain oral cleanliness.
Curcumin mouthwash is also highly recommended, which is antibacterial and won’t cause any burning sensations for the patients. It will also help with the white patches that form in the mouth. If the patient has multiple problems, they can crush Vitamin B12 tablets and massage that powder in the affected area, which will help fasten the healing process.
Treatments suggested by experts
Our oral health is a major indicator of our overall health. Problems with your mouth typically indicate underlying health problems in the body. Therefore, a person with cancer may have various symptoms in their mouth, such as discomfort, ulcerations, and burning sensations. The oral cavity is vascular and humid by nature from saliva secretion, which contributes to the rapid spread of oral cancer. Doctors advise rinsing your mouth after every meal, especially if you have anything sweet. This will prevent the bacteria in your mouth from building up and causing infections.
People who usually chew tobacco keep it in the side of their mouth, which affects the oral cavity and restricts the collagen in the mouth from breaking. This can lead to the patients not being able to open their mouths. In such cases, the patients are given steroid injections to break the collagen bands in their mouths. In extreme cases, patients are given mouth exercises where they practice slowly opening their mouths and chewing gums until the collagen bands are flexible again.
In the case of diet, hot and spicy food must be avoided. Foods rich in antioxidants must be consumed. Patients must also avoid sugar because it can increase the chances of tooth decay which worsens the hygiene of the mouth.
Snippets from a Cancer Survivor
Rahul Sharma was diagnosed with Carcinoma mouth cancer in the buccal mucosa in 2015. He had a family history of cancer, as his mother passed away due to cancer. Rahul was a fitness freak and led his life partying and celebrating. In 2014 Rahul got a mouth ulcer that did not heal for a month. However, his doctor sent him home with multivitamins. After a long time, he consulted another doctor who suggested a biopsy, from which he discovered it was cancer.
He says, “I went to Mumbai for treatment, where I had a 12-hour face surgery through which they removed the tumor. So I did not have to go through chemotherapy or radiation and thought I could return to a cancer-free life. But that is when I had a recurrence eight months later. Since I had already undergone surgery the first time, it was not an option now.
Per the oncologist’s advice, I underwent 31 rounds of radiation therapy and three rounds of chemotherapy. Both treatments had various effects on my body. I had always been a fitness freak, and my weight went from 90 kgs to 65 kgs. Doctors gave me strict orders to avoid any food that was too spicy or hot, and I could mostly only have liquid food that was fed to me through a tube because my mouth was affected.
I highly recommend alternative therapies like Ayurveda and Yoga. They help significantly in managing side effects. I believe that a cure only happens when your body and mind support it. So make sure you provide yourself with the things needed to get cured no matter what.”
Rahul is now cancer-free and has a positive outlook on life. He says, “Mouth cancer is hard to live with when you can’t have food or have to live without part of the tongue which has been operated on, but your difficulties and how you handle it is what makes life what it is, so make sure it counts.”
How ZenOnco.io helps with Dental issues in Cancer
The various cancer treatments can cause many side effects, especially dental and oral issues. And these issues can mostly be resolved with the help of proper nutrition and diet to reduce inflammation along with appropriate supplements. The Anti-cancer diet can provide appropriate nutrition to control the side effects, while Medical Cannabis can help reduce the pain and swelling in the mouth.
Zen Anti-Cancer Diet Program
The Zen Anti-Cancer Diet is customized according to the condition of the patient. If the patient has difficulty chewing or swallowing, our Onco-nutritionists can curate a diet plan to help them achieve nutrition while reducing the inflammation in the mouth. We at ZenOnco.io offer an anti-cancer diet protocol for patients, which will help increase the efficacy of the treatments while managing the treatment side effects. The once-nutritionists at ZenOnco.io will help you make informed nutritional choices, answer nutrition-related queries and achieve and maintain good health through a diet plan personalized for each patient.
Medizen Medical Cannabis
Medical cannabis is a supplement that is rich in anti-tumor properties. The MediZen Medical Cannabis Leaf Extract is derived from the Cannabis Sativa plant. Medical Cannabis can help manage various dental and oral side effects of chemotherapy and radiation, such as pain, inflammation and so on. It also arrests the growth of the tumor and acts upon the affected part to reduce the pain. The dosage and frequency of the medical cannabis are prescribed to you only after consultation with cancer experts at ZenOnco.io based on the condition and stage of the patient.
Connect with our cancer coach to learn more about how MediZen Medical Cannabis helps in managing dental and oral issues in cancer, our experts.