Dental Care for Cancer Patients

Cancer Treatment

During the course of your cancer treatment you may experience mild to severe side effects. Be sure to consult with your cancer care team prior to dental checkups especially if you have a port under your skin for receiving medication or feeding. This is important because patients with a port may also take anti-blood clotting medications which can increase bleeding during dental and medical procedures and can increase the risk of infection.

Mouth Sores
Mouth sores are ulcers that form in the soft tissue in and around your mouth including your tongue, gums, or lips. They can be caused by chemotherapy or radiation and can be mild or severe enough to delay your cancer treatment.
Why is this common for cancer patients?

Chemotherapy and radiation work to destroy rapidly growing cells throughout your body. Unfortunately some healthy cells are affected in the process – including the cells in your mouth. Also because your immune system is low, your mouth is vulnerable to infection.
What can I do for relief?

Get a dental checkup and talk to your doctor about treatment options. They may be able to recommend topical treatments that can include coating agents which form a film to protect the sores or painkillers which can numb the sores in your mouth. Be careful when eating or brushing your teeth while taking numbing medication since you may not be able to feel if you are causing more damage. There are also over-the-counter products, such as fluoride toothpastes, that contain aloe vera and allantoin, which claim to be naturally soothing and gentle. Talk to your dentist about using these products.

Brush your teeth. Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. You can soak your extra-soft toothbrush in warm water to make it softer. Don’t forget to brush your tongue!

Floss daily. This helps remove plaque between teeth. If your gums are sore or bleeding, be gentle and avoid those areas, but floss in between the rest of your teeth.

Rinse your mouth often. This will help keep food and debris off of your teeth and gums. Rinsing often, along with regular brushing and flossing, may help to reduce the chance of dental decay and infection. Rinsing is also helpful after vomiting to keep the acids from damaging the enamel on your teeth. You may also want to reduce eating citrus fruit or other high acid foods. Avoid the use of alcohol-based mouth rinses since they can be irritating to mouth sores and dry mouth.

Learn more at