Are Ice Chips Good for Oral Mucositis from Chemotherapy?
Though it may be less visible than hair loss or other symptoms, oral mucositis is often considered one of the most painful and unpleasant conditions associated with cancer and its treatments. As many as 40% of patients who undergo chemotherapy will experience oral mucositis, and that number can be as high as 80% in those who are undergoing high dose chemo regimens (Source). Fighting this condition could improve the quality of life for many people, but the most common methods of combating mucositis are often ineffective.
For several high-dose chemotherapy drugs, ice chips are one of the most frequently used preventative measures in cancer centers across the country, but how effective are ice chips at treating oral mucositis? Keep reading as the experts at Chemo Mouthpiece™ answer that very question.
How Chemotherapy Causes Oral Mucositis
It has been well-established that many prevalent cancer treatments can inflict significant harm on the body even as they battle this life-threatening disease. Radiation and chemotherapy, in particular, can ravage a patient’s systems, causing an array of embarrassing, painful, or outright dangerous side effects, including oral mucositis. As the toxic chemotherapy drugs circulate around the body, they pass through the blood vessels of the mouth, damaging the mucous membranes and causing oral mucositis.
This harrowing condition manifests as redness, sores, ulcers, bleeding, pain, dryness, and inflammation inside a patient’s mouth. Many people with higher grade oral mucositis experience such discomfort that they are unable to chew or swallow, leading to malnutrition that can further jeopardize a patient’s recovery and leading to hospitalization. Infections can also occur; left unchecked, they could become a catastrophic complication that costs a patient their time, money, and eventual good health.
Treating Oral Mucositis with Cryotherapy
Ice chips and popsicles are commonplace in many cancer centers around the country because they have been shown to prevent or help reduce the severity of oral mucositis through a type of treatment known as cryotherapy. This concept works on the same principle as brain freeze: applying cold temperatures to a blood vessel will cause it to contract, hampering the blood flow (in the case of brain freeze, painfully so). Unlike brain freeze, however, cryotherapy can be quite beneficial to patients who are undergoing chemo.
The way cryotherapy works is this: applying freezing temperatures through ice chips or popsicles causes the blood vessels in the mouth to shrink, preventing the toxic drugs in your bloodstream from moving freely through the area. The less the drugs are allowed into the tissues of the mouth, the less severe the grade of oral mucositis will be.
A 2014 study compared the efficacy of cryotherapy with that of saline solutions and a medicated mouthwash known as Caphosol. This experiment, the results of which were published in the journal Biology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation, found cryotherapy to be so effective by comparison that the authors stopped the study early “due to the superiority of CT [cryotherapy].” In the end, 90% of patients who used cryotherapy were free from oral mucositis, while only 36% of Caphosol users and 34% of saline solution users were spared.
The Best Way to Fight Oral Mucositis from Chemotherapy
The problem with using ice chips to cool the mouth is that their size – and therefore their area of effectiveness – is limited. Often, these bits of ice simply sit at the bottom of the mouth, chilling the tongue and the surrounding areas while leaving the cheeks and roof of the mouth vulnerable. Popsicles, too, lack the scope to cool the entire oral cavity, treating only the areas that they directly touch. While this treatment can still be helpful for patients, it often allows some of the chemotherapy drugs to enter the healthy tissues of the mouth and wreak havoc. These forms of cryotherapy are also often intolerable due to tooth sensitivity.
To address the inherent limitations of ice chips and similar products, cancer survivor and engineer David Yoskowitz came up with an innovative solution: the Chemo Mouthpiece™. This cryotherapy mouthpiece is a device specifically designed to cool the entire oral cavity uniformly, lowering the temperature by an average of more than 31 degrees over the course of a 30-minute treatment.
To accomplish this, bring your frozen Chemo Mouthpiece with you to the cancer center. The Chemo Mouthpiece™ consists of a hard plastic inner core filled with fresh water and a soft silicone outer layer filled with saltwater. When left in a standard freezer, the inner core freezes solid while the saltwater remains liquid, ensuring that you can comfortably fit the piece into your mouth while still benefiting from the frozen core. There are also two breathing tubes that run through the middle of the device, allowing you to breathe comfortably while using the Chemo Mouthpiece™.
The Most Effective Oral Mucositis Prevention Available to Cancer Patients
Cryotherapy does more than simply treat oral mucositis after it occurs – it helps to prevent it from forming in the first place. Patients who have seen results from other, less effective methods of cryotherapy, or who had never heard of it before but would like to experience relief from mucositis, can greatly benefit from the effects of the Chemo Mouthpiece™. To learn more about how this device works, visit us online or call (866) 461-7518 today.