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Cancer is a horrible disease which causes abnormal cells in the body to have uncontrolled division, creating growths and tumors that harm health. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are two common treatment options, however, they too can have a negative effect on the body. Learn about the effects that cancer and its treatments can have on the mouth and how to remedy these problems.

Mouth Sores

  • These are painful ulcers that can develop in the mouth and may delay cancer treatment if very severe.
  • They are caused because of a weak immune system and because radiation therapy destroys cells.
  • Your dentist may recommend using a topical treatment to coat and protect the sores or some painkillers to numb them. Be extra gentle when brushing and flossing around these sores and avoid foods that are crunchy, spicy, acidic, or alcoholic.

Dry Mouth

  • If the salivary glands are damaged, your saliva flow decreases which can cause a sore throat, burning sensation, trouble swallowing, difficulty speaking, and an increased risk of tooth decay.
  • Medications and chemotherapy can damage the salivary glands.
  • Your dentist may recommend using artificial saliva, an oral rinse (one without alcohol because it dries out the mouth even more), or drinking more water.

Sensitive Gums/Gum Disease

  • Red, swollen, tender, or bleeding gums can be a common side effect from chemotherapy or a sign of gum disease.
  • Because of the body’s weakened immune system, the gums are more vulnerable to infections.
  • Your dentist may recommend an oral rinse that is anti-inflammatory, steroid, antibacterial, or antifungal.

Jaw Pain

  • Pain around the ear, head, or jaw (especially when chewing) is a common side effect of cancer therapy.
  • Radiation can inflame and scar the jaw muscles, or the jaw pain could be a result of grinding and clenching teeth (because of stress).
  • Jaw exercises can help with the pain or your dentist may recommend using a muscle relaxant or anti-inflammatory medication.