- Cancer Information
- Managing side effects
- Mouth health and cancer treatment
- Taking care of your mouth before treatment
Taking care of your mouth before treatment
It is often a good idea to visit your dentist for a thorough check-up before starting cancer treatment. Tell the dentist about the type of treatment you will be having so they can develop an oral health care plan.
It is especially important to see your dentist if you already have mouth problems or tooth decay, or if you are going to have high-dose chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant or radiation therapy to the head and neck area. If you are having radiation therapy to the mouth, your treatment team may require you to have a dental check-up before treatment starts.
You may need to have any decaying teeth removed before starting treatment. There is a higher risk of infection and bleeding if you have dental work during cancer treatment.
Before treatment, you can take care of your mouth by:
- eating a balanced, nutritious diet that includes a variety of foods from the five food groups – fruits, vegetables and legumes, wholegrains, meat (or alternatives) and dairy (or alternatives); if you are having difficulty eating, talk to a dietitian or speech pathologist about suitable foods
- quitting smoking – call the Quitline on 13 7848 or talk to your doctor
- limiting how much alcohol you drink
- learning how to care for your mouth – ask your dentist or healthcare team for advice.
Oral health care plan
An oral health care plan sets out any dental work you need before having treatment. It also provides detailed instructions about how to look after your mouth before, during and after treatment to help prevent tooth decay and deal with any oral side effects such as mouth sores.
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A/Prof Sharon Liberali, Specialist, Special Needs Dentistry, and Director Special Needs Unit, Adelaide Dental Hospital, SA Dental Service, SA; Cecilia Barling, Consumer; Dr Bena Brown, Principal Allied Health Research Fellow in Cancer, and Advanced Speech Pathologist (Oncology), Princess Alexandra Hospital and Centre for Functioning and Health Research, QLD; Lisa Castle-Burns, Head and Neck Cancer Specialist Nurse, Canberra Region Cancer Centre, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Merran Findlay, Executive Research Lead – Cancer Nutrition, Oncology Specialist Dietitian, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, NSW; Jasmin Mazis, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Rick Pointon, Consumer; Prof David Wiesenfeld, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, and Director, Head and Neck Tumour Stream, The Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Sue-Ching Yeoh, Oral Medicine Specialist, Sydney Oral Medicine, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW
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