Oral Care During Cancer Treatment

oral-caceer-care-Healthy-teeth-plusDental concerns should be looked after prior to cancer treatment. It is recommended visiting a dentist before starting to undergo cancer treatment, to ensure your oral health is properly looked after, and monitored for optimal safety.

Cancer treatments can cause a decrease in white blood cells (which help the body fight infection) and platelets (which helps the blood clot). When these blood counts are low, use an ultra-soft toothbrush, be very gentle when brushing, and avoid flossing to prevent bleeding. Cancer treatments can also reduce saliva production. No professional dental treatments should be performed at this time, which is why it is encouraged to visit a dentist beforehand.

Mouth problems can arise during cancer treatment including canker sores, dry mouth, bleeding,, thrush, changes in taste and appetite and development of cavities due to dry mouth. It is suggested to continue to brush regularly (including after taking liquid medications as they contain sugar), rinse with water after vomiting (do not brush for at least 30 minutes because the enamel is soft), rinse with non-alcoholic antibacterial mouth rinse, apply fluoride gel or mouth rinse regularly, keep mouth and lips moist (do not use petroleum jelly) and use saliva substitutes such as gum as tolerated.


  • Avoid sweet drinks and sugary snacks – sugar free chewing gum is good to increase saliva flow
  • Watch fruit drinks – they have a high concentration of sugar and acid
  • Drink milk or water – teas and coffee can dry out the mouth
  • Brush and rinse before bed

Content supplied by the Brushing Up on Mouth Care Program http://www.ahprc.dal.ca/projects/oral-care/