Dental Care for Cancer Patients: Navigating Treatment Side Effects

senior dental patient discusses side effects from cancer

When someone is diagnosed with cancer, doctors often want to begin treating the disease as soon as possible. Cancer treatments are a life-saving necessity, but they can also wreak havoc on other healthy functions and structures of the body. We’re here to help demystify some of the common side effects that those undergoing treatment may encounter and how to navigate them.

Radiation Therapy

When you undergo radiation to the head and neck, you may experience side effects like dry mouth, changes in saliva production and consistency, increased risk of tooth decay, changes in bone and muscle strength in the jaw, and an increased risk of gum disease.

To help protect your smile and jaw, your doctor may use fluoride treatments, a low-sugar diet, and jaw exercises. Side effects from radiation can be temporary or long-term, so it’s paramount to check in frequently with your doctor if you’re experiencing them.


The side effects of chemotherapy usually stop soon after your treatment, but the side effects can be severe. Some of these include bleeding gums, oral sores, peeling and burning of the tongue, and general pain in the oral cavity.

Your doctor may provide medication or suggest lifestyle changes to help patients cope with some of these side effects. Eating smaller meals, increasing your fruit and vegetable intake, keeping your mouth cold with water or ice, and visiting your dentist can help mitigate some of these uncomfortable side effects.

Getting a Head Start

Cancer often develops suddenly and with little to no warning. Staying on top of your oral care before disaster strikes can set your smile up to better endure the strain placed on it. Remember to brush your teeth at least two times a day for a full two minutes and to floss regularly.

Compassionate, Comprehensive Dentistry in Derwood, MD!

If you’re struggling with the side effects of your treatment and need extra care or guidance, the empathetic professionals at Three Creek Dentistry are here to help. We’re also here for all of your preventative dental care needs. Call us today to schedule your appointment!


Three Creek Dentistry