Is Chemo Painful for Your Gums, Mouth and Teeth?
Chemotherapy has a reputation for causing a host of painful and unpleasant side effects for patients already struggling against the scourge of cancer. Most people recognize the telltale hair loss as a sign of chemo or radiation treatments, but other side effects can be even more uncomfortable. Others such as nausea, vomiting, nerve pain, mouth sores, and immune system issues can prove debilitating, especially since there are often few options to stop or mitigate these effects. One question people sometimes have regarding these symptoms is whether chemo hurts your gums, mouth, and teeth and if there is any method for preventing oral mucositis. To find out the answer, keep reading while the oral cryotherapy team at Chemo Mouthpiece™ explains.
Does Chemotherapy Hurt Your Mouth and Teeth?
Among the many grueling effects of chemotherapy, one stands out for many patients as the most difficult to endure: oral mucositis. This condition is characterized by the appearance of painful lesions in the mouth that are prone to bleeding, as well as inflammation, pain and a lack of saliva. While mouth sores may seem like a minor nuisance compared to the threat posed by cancer, mucositis is nonetheless a serious ailment that poses a threat to patients on multiple fronts.
Oral mucositis occurs because of the interaction between chemotherapy drugs and the mouth’s sensitive mucous membranes. As the chemo medication circulates through the body’s blood vessels, it targets and destroys any kind of fast-growing cells that it finds – which makes sense, since wild growth is a hallmark of cancerous tissue. Unfortunately, these drugs attack both diseased tissue and healthy tissue; when they get to the mouth, they cause the painful ulcers that plague so many patients. The list of mucositis symptoms includes:
- Swollen or inflamed gums
- Sores along the inside of the lips, cheeks, or tongue
- Pain in the mouth or throat
- Difficulty talking, drinking, eating, chewing, or swallowing
- Lack of saliva or thicker saliva
- Bleeding in the mouth
In short, yes, chemotherapy can hurt your gums, mouth, and teeth. Up to 40% of patients undergoing regular chemotherapy will develop this condition, along with as many as 80% of patients receiving high-dose chemo treatments. (Source) Oral cryotherapy in the form of ice has been proven to help try and prevent mucositis, but it is not 100%, learn more below. There are also a few other ways patients can address the symptoms of oral mucositis.
Common Treatments for Mouth Pain Caused by Chemo
For those who suffer from debilitating mucositis symptoms, know that there are over-the-counter and do-it-yourself treatments available to help ease your pain. Chief among these remedies is a simple mouthwash to moisten and lubricate any irritated tissues while clearing away debris from open sores. One affordable yet effective mouthwash is a solution made with salt, baking soda, or both; these ingredients can help relieve pain and inflammation in the short term, and they can be helpful for preventing the development of infections. To make this yourself, try adding one teaspoon of salt and one teaspoon of baking soda to a quart of water. Oral gels are another commonly used treatment for relieving pain, but because they only affect the area where they are directly applied, they are less useful for extensive mucositis.
It should also be noted that a proper oral care routine during chemotherapy is essential for those with mucositis, as the severity of the condition has been linked to a patient’s level of oral hygiene. Before beginning treatments, be sure to visit your dentist and resolve any outstanding dental issues. Maintain a consistent routine of mouthwashes, brushing your teeth with a soft-bristle brush after meals and before bed, and using non-abrasive varieties of toothpaste. Avoid smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes as well, as they can delay healing in the mouth.
Preventing Mouth Sores from Chemotherapy
So far, the most effective way to prevent oral mucositis from getting out of hand is through the application of oral cryotherapy, which utilizes freezing or near-freezing temperatures to change the body’s reactions. This is the principle behind icing a bruise, though the purpose is a bit different when preventing mucositis. The aim of cryotherapy during chemo is to force the blood vessels of the mouth to shrink, thereby limiting the access of the chemotherapy drugs that travel along those same vessels and cause oral mucositis.
Typically, doctors and nurses use ice chips or popsicles during treatments to cool the inside of the mouth for this very reason, but neither method is particularly effective at actually cooling the tissues of the mouth. By comparison, the Chemo Mouthpiece™ offers extensive reach to chill every corner of the entire oral cavity by as much as 30 degrees during the course of treatment. Just freeze the mouthpiece at home, bring it with you to your treatment center and keep it in your mouth as the mucositis causing chemotherapy is administered.
Specialized Ice Pack for Patients with Painful Oral Mucositis Symptoms
Unlike most treatments out there, the Chemo Mouthpiece™ was specifically designed to combat the symptoms of mucositis. After firsthand experiencing the hardships this condition can bring, engineer and cancer survivor David Yoskowitz created the Chemo Mouthpiece™ to help other patients better handle the pain, bleeding, inflammation, and sores that can complicate or even delay a patient’s cancer treatments. To learn more about how the Chemo Mouthpiece™ works and how it can help you or a loved one, visit us online or call (866) 461-7518 today.