Cancer & Dental Health

Cancer & Dental Health

Chemotherapy and radiation treatment can have temporary and long-term oral health implications. If you have recently been diagnosed with cancer, it’s important to discuss your diagnosis and your oral health with your dentist, before you commence your cancer treatment. Assessing the health of your teeth and mouth in the context of proposed cancer treatment(s) will help to determine if any dental treatment (by your dentist or a specialist) is required.


Dental treatment during or after cancer therapy can be significantly more complex, and often presents a higher risk of complication. Patients at the highest risk of oral complications include those receiving radiation to the head and neck region, those who require bone marrow transplants, or patients receiving specific chemotherapy agents.

Side effects

Whilst undergoing cancer treatment, you may find that your saliva is thicker and less abundant. The effect this has on your saliva is that it is less effective at neutralising the acids produced by dental plaque, putting you at increased risk of tooth decay. You may suffer from more soreness and ulcers in the mouth, gum infections, bleeding gums, dry mouth and altered taste. A dry mouth may also make it difficult to wear dentures. Your dentist will be able to suggest a treatment plan for managing these conditions.

After treatment

Once your cancer treatment is complete your dentist may recommend that you use specific fluoride rinses and gels, high concentrated fluoride toothpastes, and other products designed to help you lower the risk of tooth decay. Dry mouth will usually clear up after treatment, although this may not be the case if you have had radiation treatment for head and neck cancers. Some symptoms may persist long-term, especially if your treatment affected the salivary glands, in which case you should see your dentist as frequently as every 3 months.

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