How Your Mouth Responds to Radiation
If radiation therapy is in your future, present, or past, there are some potential side-effects you can benefit from understanding, especially when it comes to your oral health. Radiation can affect your healthy cells in addition to cancerous cells, putting tissues in your mouth and related systems at risk for damage.
Additionally, cancer itself can cause oral problems, and the likelihood of this increases in cases where the cancer is located in your head, neck, or mouth. Radiation side-effects or cancer can be temporary or chronic and range in severity. They typically occur with treatment but may not appear until afterward.
Cancer and radiation treatment may increase your risk for:
- Changes to your saliva production, including dry mouth (also known as xerostomia)
- Sensitivity or discomfort in your mouth
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- Changes to your sense of taste
- Sores and peeling
- Gum disease
- Jaw problems
Some of these symptoms may resolve on their own, especially if they occur during your course of radiation treatment or chemotherapy. Read below, and we’ll discuss more of your options to minimize these symptoms and the experts available to help.
Helpful tip: It’s a good idea to keep track of your side-effects to best inform your care providers and medical or dental professionals. It often helps to write these down, so you don’t forget when your visit comes.