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Cancer and its oral health effects

March is cancer treatment awareness month — and a time for cancer patients and their families to remember that cancer treatment can have adverse oral health consequences.

An estimated 400,000 of the 1.2 million Americans diagnosed with cancer each year may develop painful and debilitating oral complications from their cancer treatment. Persons who undergo cancer treatment are sometimes unaware that a dental examination is a critical step in maintaining their overall health.

Patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation are more prone to xerostomia (dry mouth); oral mucositis (inflammation of the mouth tissue); infection; changes in taste; impaired ability to eat, taste, swallow and speak; abnormal dental development; poor nutrition; and oral bleeding.

Cancer patients can protect oral health with some daily oral care strategies like using an extra-soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste; gently flossing unless bleeding or soreness of the gums occurs; exercising jaw muscles; rinsing with a baking soda and salt solution to combat irritation; avoiding sugary or spicy foods, tobacco and alcohol.

Consult with your dentist for more information, or log on to the American Dental Association Web site at www.ada.org.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

02/20/2006

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