Oral Care Tips During Chemotherapy Treatments
As you battle cancer and the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, chances are you have enough on your mind without worrying too much about oral care or hygiene. Between the hair loss, nausea, nerve pain, and other unpleasant reactions your body forces upon you, oral care may not feel like a priority, but for those who experience the symptoms of oral mucositis, good oral hygiene can have a profound impact on your overall recovery and prognosis. But what’s the best way to take care of your mouth during chemo? Keep reading as the folks at Chemo Mouthpiece™ provide some answers.
Why Is Oral Care Important During Chemo?
Though it may seem like a secondary concern, a good oral care routine during chemotherapy is actually a key element of many cancer patients’ recovery processes. The reason for this is easy to identify: oral mucositis, a condition characterized by painful ulcers, inflammation, bleeding, and dry mouth. When the drugs used in chemo circulate through the body, they eventually reach the blood vessels around the mouth; from there, they travel to the sensitive mucous membranes and begin to break them down. This is what leads to the mouth sores that plague so many patients.
These sores represent much more than a mere annoyance or inconvenience: they can pose a serious threat to a patient’s very life. While oral mucositis itself is not fatal, the complications that can arise from it can be deadly, especially the development of a serious infection. Because of the dry mouth that accompanies oral mucositis, there is often inadequate saliva present to defend against infection; because of the damage chemo can inflict on the bone marrow, the body’s immune system is often compromised, further reducing a patient’s ability to fend off an attack by some bacteria, fungus, or virus. Together, these vulnerabilities create an opening for an infection to set in, which can ultimately be fatal.
A 2008 study found a significant link between oral mucositis and a number of complications, including more than double the risk of infection – on average – with a single-point increase in the severity of a patient’s mucositis (which is rated on a scale of 1-4). This risk is aside from the extra day of fever, 2.7 extra days of IV nutrition, 2.6 extra days of narcotic painkillers and hospitalization, and an almost four-fold increase in 100-day mortality risk – complications that together constitute more than $25,000 in additional medical bills. Taking care of your mouth while fighting the symptoms of mucositis can help prevent many of these developments and save you time, money, and pain.
Tips for Effective Oral Care During Chemo
For patients who grapple with mouth sores after chemotherapy, an effort should be made to treat each ulcer as an open wound, since that’s fundamentally what it is. Just as you would seek to keep a scrape or cut clean, so too should you ensure that your sores remain free of food and other debris that could lead to an infection. You should also try to keep your mouth lubricated with water or artificial saliva. Make sure to talk to your doctor before regularly using any specific products, however.
One of the most useful tools a patient has to keep their mouth clean is a simple mouthwash, either purchased over-the-counter at a local drug store or made in your home from common ingredients. A mouthwash made with salt, baking soda, or both can be effective at not only keeping your sores clean and clear of debris but can also help relieve pain and inflammation of the affected tissue. In that same vein, make sure to continue brushing your teeth regularly, as good oral hygiene is an important part of your self-care regimen as well.
If you suspect an infection may have taken root, contact your healthcare provider immediately, as you may require antibiotics. The earlier a nascent infection is addressed, the less it will hinder your recovery, so don’t delay.
Preventing Oral Mucositis Through Cryotherapy
While the treatments mentioned above can certainly be helpful for patients, preventing the worst of your mucositis symptoms can also greatly reduce your risk of infection while simultaneously improving your overall quality of life. The best way to achieve this is through cryotherapy, the use of freezing temperatures to affect the body; in this case, the goal is to use the cold to shrink the blood vessels of the mouth during treatment, thereby limiting access to the area and preventing much of the chemo medication from reaching sensitive tissues.
Most cancer centers use ice chips or popsicles as their primary form of cryotherapy, but these tools can, at best, only affect a limited area. Instead, try the full-mouth cooling power of the Chemo Mouthpiece™, a simple, FDA-registered cryotherapy device for oral mucositis by chilling all the mouth’s blood vessels simultaneously for superior results.
Specialized Ice Pack for Helping with Oral Mucositis Symptoms
Though there is not yet a way to guarantee the prevention of oral mucositis after chemotherapy, the fact remains that patients have options when it comes to treatment and prevention. Cryotherapy has consistently shown to be effective at combating this ailment, and the Chemo Mouthpiece™ offers exemplary application of oral cryotherapy; trials have shown a drop of as much as 30 degrees in the tissues around the mouth when the Chemo Mouthpiece™ is used. To learn more about how this revolutionary device can help you or a loved one, visit us online or call (866) 461-7518 today.