Oral Hygiene Tips for Cancer Patients
Taking care of yourself while simultaneously fending off cancer is difficult in the extreme, as much because of the sheer number of symptoms and side effects as because of their intensity. Patients regularly face nerve pain, hair loss, nausea, and mouth sores, among other reactions, as toxic chemotherapy drugs move through the body in search of cancerous tissue. The result of this collateral damage is a steep decline in patients’ quality of life and a host of potentially life-threatening complications, especially related to the appearance of oral mucositis. So what is the best way for patients to keep their mouths clean, and is there an oral cryotherapy device to relieve mucositis symptoms? Continue reading as the people from Chemo Mouthpiece™ dive into this topic.
Why is Oral Hygiene Important for Cancer Patients?
In the midst of a battle against one of the most devastating illnesses in the world, cancer patients may – understandably – feel that oral hygiene is a lesser concern. While this may be true for a lucky few, most patients will benefit substantially from maintaining good oral hygiene practices, and not just because of the pearly smile it provides.
One of the most debilitating chemotherapy side effects a cancer patient may face is oral mucositis, a condition characterized by painful lesions in the mouth caused by interactions with radiation or chemo drugs. As many as 40% of chemo patients will develop this ailment; for high-dose chemotherapy, that number is more like 80%. (Source)
These patients are under constant threat from the sores in their mouths. Not only do these ulcers carry the risk of infection common to all open wounds, but, because chemotherapy tends to weaken the immune system significantly, these patients can end up without adequate defenses to fend off the viruses, fungi, or bacteria that can cause those infections. In addition, the lack of saliva in the area represents a further threat, since saliva typically acts as a shield against infection.
In fact, a single-point increase in the severity of a patient’s oral mucositis (the condition is judged on a scale of 1-4) is associated with more than double the risk of infection, according to a 2008 study published in the journal Dental Clinics of North America. Further complications can include an extra day of fever; almost three more days of IV nutrition, narcotic medications, and hospitalization; and almost four times the risk of 100-day mortality.
The financial cost of these developments can be as much as $25,000 for patients, making the prevention and alleviation of mucositis symptoms almost as important economically as it is physically. But what can patients do to mitigate these effects? The answer is surprisingly simple.
Oral Care Tips for Chemotherapy Patients
As important as it is for a person to care for their mouth under normal circumstances, those with mucositis symptoms should take extra care to prevent their symptoms from worsening, not only because of the fiscal benefits and increased quality of life, but also to keep their chemo treatments on track; patients whose mucositis has become severe could be forced to delay their treatments for a time.
Before treatments begin, visit your dentist to resolve any outstanding issues. Once your chemotherapy has begun, improve your oral care routine during chemotherapy by trying these oral hygiene tips to help lessen your mucositis symptoms:
- Rinse your mouth out regularly with a saline or baking soda solution made with one teaspoon solute (salt or baking soda) and one quart of water
- Brush after every meal and before bed with a soft-bristled toothbrush
- Use only non-abrasive toothpaste or a mixture of one teaspoon of baking soda in two cups of water
- Avoid products that could irritate your gums, such as dental floss or mouthwashes that contain alcohol
- If you wear dentures, keep them out whenever possible and do not wear them if your symptoms are especially severe
Using Cryotherapy to Prevent Oral Mucositis
Whereas oral hygiene practices help prevent mouth sores by ensuring optimal health for the tissues themselves, cryotherapy is a method of prevention that acts on the chemo drugs instead. By applying freezing temperatures to the inside of the mouth, the blood vessels in the area are forced to shrink, limiting the ability of the toxic chemicals to reach vulnerable tissues and cause damage in the form of oral mucositis.
To this end, nurses and doctors distribute ice chips and popsicles to patients undergoing chemo treatments in an effort to cool the inside of the mouth; however, these methods are less than perfect, as ice chips and popsicles both fail to reach all the tissues of the mouth. Instead, try the extensive cooling power of the Chemo Mouthpiece™, an innovative, easy-to-use ice pack for the mouth that will chill your entire oral cavity by as much as 30 degrees over a single half-hour treatment session.
Oral Ice Pack for Patients with Mucositis Symptoms
If you have been forced to endure painful mouth sores after your chemotherapy treatments, know that help is available. Cryotherapy has shown time and again its ability to help prevent the worst of mucositis’ effects, and no medical device available today delivers the power of cryotherapy like the Chemo Mouthpiece™. Created by cancer survivor and engineer David Yoskowitz after his own struggle with oral mucositis, the Chemo Mouthpiece™ is specially designed to provide a full-mouth chill. To learn more about our device and how it can help you or a loved one, visit us online or call (866) 461-7518 today.