Mouthwash vs. Cryotherapy for Oral Mucositis for Chemo Patients
Oral mucositis is one of the toughest, most debilitating side effects of chemotherapy. Not only are the symptoms of this condition painful, but they can also lead to a host of expensive, and even life-threatening, complications if left unchecked. Patients can find some remedies at their local drugstore or make things at home, but two of the most popular and effective treatment methods for oral mucositis are mouthwashes and cryotherapy. Which of these is more effective for helping with mouth sores caused by chemotherapy? The experts at Chemo Mouthpiece™ will explain the differences between them below.
What Causes Mouth Sores During Chemotherapy Treatment?
Although it is undoubtedly effective for treating many types of cancer, chemotherapy has become almost as well-known for its negative side effects as for its healing powers – so much so that side effects such as hair loss have become an instantly recognizable sign of cancer treatments. One of the most debilitating of these side effects is sores inside the mouth, often accompanied by inflammation, pain, and even bleeding. In fact, many patients label this condition – called “oral mucositis” – as the worst they experience while undergoing chemotherapy, placing it above nerve pain, nausea, and others that can themselves be quite unpleasant.
Like many of the side effects that follow with chemo treatment, oral mucositis is a result of chemo drugs attacking healthy tissue even as they target diseased cells as well. By design, chemotherapy seeks out and destroys rapidly growing cells, which includes those in tumors as well as normal cells in the body’s hair, nails, bone marrow, and mucous membranes. When these toxic chemicals reach the mouth, they break down the mucous membranes, causing the formation of painful sores.
Depending on the amount of drugs that is able to reach the area, the symptoms can vary in magnitude; those being treated for head, mouth, or throat cancers are more likely to experience the symptoms of oral mucositis. Studies have shown that as many as 40% of all chemo patients will experience these symptoms, and up to 80% of those undergoing high-dose chemotherapy are vulnerable to them.
The Cost of Oral Mucositis
As painful and inconvenient as oral mucositis may seem, the reality is actually far worse than you might imagine. The mucositis symptoms in a cancer patient has been linked to a host of complications, some of which are life-threatening and almost all of which are expensive. A 2008 study of patients with oral mucositis found that an increase in its severity led to longer fevers, more than double the risk of a serious infection, additional days of narcotic painkillers and IV nutrition, extra days spent in the hospital, and a significant increase in patients’ 100-day mortality rate. All told, the financial burden of mucositis can be as much as $25,000 for a single patient, making it as damaging to the wallet as it is to a patient’s overall well-being.
Treatments for Oral Mucositis: Mouthwash vs. Cryotherapy
Mouthwashes are among the most readily available and easy-to-use treatments for oral mucositis, as well as part of a good oral care routine for chemo patients. Often, all it takes is a rinse and spit to make those mouth sores feel just a little bit better, so it’s understandable that many patients use this method to help relieve their pain and keep their mouth clean as well. On the other hand, cryotherapy – cold therapy – offers a way to reduce the severity of symptoms before they even appear. So which is more effective?
As stated above, mouthwashes are both accessible and convenient for patients to use. Anyone can make a saltwater rinse at home by adding a bit of salt to a warm glass of water and using that to clean and moisturize their mouth; alternately, the same effect can be achieved with baking soda instead of salt. This makes mouthwashes a cheap treatment as well, but do they have any downsides? For one thing, mouthwashes are only useful to a patient who has already developed mucositis; in other words, you have to be in pain to gain anything from their use. Another issue is the relative lack of potency common to these treatments, as mouthwashes tend to provide only minor relief from the pain and inflammation.
By comparison, cryotherapy – when properly employed – has demonstrated an ability to fight oral mucositis before it even appears. It protects the mouth from the inside out. Cryotherapy works by cooling the blood vessels of the mouth, causing them to shrink and reducing blood flow to the area during the infusion of chemo drugs. This limits the amount of the drugs that can to reach the vulnerable mucous membranes, which in turn limits the severity of mucositis. It’s the reason nurses and doctors distribute ice chips to patients during treatments, though they represent a less-than-ideal method of using cryotherapy as they only reach a limited area.
The Chemo Mouthpiece™ is a unique oral cryotherapy device for chemo patients designed specifically to combat mucositis symptoms. Simply freeze the mouthpiece at home ahead of your treatment, and bring it with you to use during the infusion to cool and protect your entire mouth.
Oral Cryotherapy Device for Helping with Chemo Mouth Sores
When using cryotherapy to prevent mucositis symptoms, go for the most effective method around. The Chemo Mouthpiece™ can chill the entire oral cavity uniformly, from top to bottom and side to side, bringing the cooling power of cryotherapy to your entire mouth. To learn more about how the Chemo Mouthpiece™ can help you or a loved one who is undergoing chemotherapy, visit us online or call (866) 461-7518 today.