What Is the Best Toothpaste to Use with Mouth Sores from Chemo?
Sometimes, dealing with the side effects of chemotherapy can seem just as difficult as dealing with cancer itself. This type of treatment is well-known for causing all sorts of problems that impact a patient’s quality of life, from the hair loss that has come to represent chemo to the nerve pain, acute nausea, mouth sores, and other side effects that can make even the most basic daily tasks difficult.
For the patients who experience these symptoms, finding ways to mitigate them or to keep living in spite of them is often a top priority. For example, those looking to practice a good oral care routine during chemotherapy may wonder: What is the best toothpaste to use with mouth sores from chemo? To find out, keep reading as the people at the Chemo Mouthpiece™ explain.
How Does Chemo Cause Mouth Sores?
The drugs used during chemotherapy work well against cancer because they’re designed to seek out and attack any cells in the body that rapidly divide and grow, such as those in a tumor. Unfortunately, these characteristics are shared by several types of naturally occurring cells in the body, including those in the hair, nails, bone marrow, and the mucous membranes that line the digestive tract. And because chemo is an example of “systemic” treatment, it circulates throughout the body, affecting all of these areas to some extent and causing the side effects experienced by so many patients.
Once the chemo medication travels along the blood vessels of the mouth, it reaches the mucous membranes there and begins to break them down. This causes the formation of painful lesions that can make it difficult to eat, drink, or talk.
Other symptoms of this condition, which is called oral mucositis, include thicker saliva, inflammation, and a greater chance of developing an infection – a potentially life-threatening complication in cancer patients.
Proper Oral Care with Toothpaste for Chemo Mouth Sores
It may seem like a relatively minor concern for a patient battling cancer, but oral hygiene is even more important for people facing this deadly illness. Visiting your dentist or a dental oncologist and addressing any oral health needs is commonly considered a vital part of preparing for chemo precisely because of the risk of mouth sores.
The worse the condition of a patient’s mouth, the more severe their oral mucositis symptoms tend to be.
Also, because chemo treatments often compromise a patient’s immune system, even a minor infection (such as gingivitis) can grow to threaten the person’s recovery and overall prognosis.
The importance of proper oral care continues during chemo. Patients should be sure to rinse their mouths out with a saltwater or baking soda mixture, known as sodium bi-carb rinse, several times per day, especially after meals. They should also brush their teeth with a soft-bristled brush to avoid damaging their gums, though flossing should be avoided by those whose gums are prone to bleeding.
When deciding what toothpaste to use with mouth sores caused by chemo, try to avoid products that could be abrasive. Instead, look for fluoride toothpaste, since fluoride can be effective at slowing the damage done to enamel and speeding up the repair process for teeth.
The Cost of Oral Mucositis Caused by Chemo
The appearance of chemo mouth sores is more than a painful inconvenience, as it can easily grow to become a costly, life-threatening condition, especially if oral care is neglected. This is especially true in the more severe cases of oral mucositis – those on the higher end of the grading scale.
Though there is no one tool for measuring the severity of oral mucositis, one of the more common – the World Health Organization (WHO) scale – is used by many in the industry and includes the following criteria:
- Grade 1: Soreness and/or inflammation in the mouth
- Grade 2: Oral inflammation with ulcers; patient can eat solid foods
- Grade 3: More extensive ulcers; patient can only consume liquids
- Grade 4: Severe ulceration; oral consumption of nutrients is impossible
Patients who experience a single-point increase on this scale often see firsthand the true cost of oral mucositis. A 2008 study published in the journal Dental Clinics of North America found that patients with this one-point uptick had more than double the odds of developing a serious fever, 2.6 more days of narcotic painkillers, 2.6 extra days in the hospital, 2.7 more days of IV nutrition, and an almost four-fold increase in their 100-day mortality risk.
All told, the cost for those with more severe symptoms can be over $25,000 in hospital bills, according to the study – and that’s in addition to the already significant expenses that come with battling cancer. Doing your best to ward off the symptoms of this condition before they appear can save you or your loved one a lot of pain (both physical and financial) while improving quality of life; luckily, the Chemo Mouthpiece™ can help.
Try a Specialized Oral Ice Pack for Fighting Mouth Sores from Chemo
One of the few types of treatment that has shown any promise at preventing oral mucositis in those undergoing chemo is cryotherapy, which involves the use of freezing temperatures to treat the body. That’s why nurses often distribute ice chips for patients to suck on at treatment centers: to cool the patient’s mouths through cryotherapy, shrinking the blood vessels there and limiting access for the toxic chemo drugs circulating through the body.
As a specialized oral cryotherapy device, the Chemo Mouthpiece™ offers a much-improved version of what ice chips provide; this simple, easy-to-use device simply needs to be cooled in your home freezer then brought with you to your treatment, where it can provide powerful relief throughout the oral cavity.
To learn more about the Chemo Mouthpiece™ and how it can help with mouth sores caused by chemo, visit us online or call (866) 461-7518 today.