Nifty Oral Care Tricks for Cancer Patients
Dehydration has many causes and symptoms. Dehydration reduces saliva creation leading to dry mouth. A dry mouth can lead to mouth sores, tooth enamel erosion and cavities leading to further dental and oral complications.
The oral musoca (soft tissues of the mouth) is also a very sensitive tissue, it can deal with a lot but chemo treatments, medications and radiation near the oral tissues can have some pretty distressing side-effects making it difficult to eat and get needed nutrition.
Tracking your oral health frequently by a medical professional during cancer, radiation and chemo is essential.
Discuss dental hygiene visits with your Oncologist and your Dentist. Timing is important during the chemo treatment healing time.
Make sure your dental hygienist uses an ultrasonic tool while cleaning your teeth. This instrument has been clinically documented to have many healing effects, more than hand scaling does.
We know it may be hard and costly but try to double or triple your normal frequency of dental hygiene visits. For more info, specifically about oral care during chemo, visit www.cancer.ca.
Medical professionals recommend a few ways to help a dry mouth and give extra care during chemo and radiation. Our Cancer Care Guide section goes further into the details of oral health management during Cancer and Chemo.
PUR Xylitol Peppermints
The Benefits of Xylitol are many. Essentially, It's a simple and effective superhero for the mouth.
Where to start... Xylitol is a natural sugar-alcohol (diabetics can have these mints). It is a great sugar substitute that is not artificial.
Xylitol acts like a Trojan horse for oral bacteria which confuses it for its regular food, sugar. Happily, bacteria is not able to digest this type of sugar. So when it is eaten, bacteria starves and is killed off. This brings the pH (the acidity level) of the mouth to a more neutral environment helping to prevent cavities (which are caused by acidity).
Xylitol also increases saliva flow which helps with dry-mouth. Saliva exposes teeth to healing minerals helping the mouth to naturally prevent and re-calcify current potential cavities. You will notice that your teeth feel smoother after enjoying a mint. Xylitol is recommended by Hygienists and Dentists.
Peppermint, in addition, naturally slows digestion down which can soothe the stomach when upset, calms nausea and cools the body internally.
*Note: Xylitol is a naturally mild diarrhetic in higher doses, so experiment and start off slow.
20 mints, 22g, .8oz.
We chose floss picks instead of floss string for hygienic reasons and for ease of use. Taking care of your teeth and clearing out bacterial colonies from between teeth is more important during radiation and chemo than probably any other time. The oral cavity exaggerates its current health state while going through chemo treatments and radiation. Bacteria can cause more and more rapid damage than usual.
Flossing is an easy thing to do but is easier to ignore. Ignoring this easy step can cause oral complications, inflammation and sometimes severe infection.
I grew up with 2 dentist and 2 dental hygienists in the family... the conclusion is... please, just do it.
It's important when healthy but it is a critical must now especially.
*Ask your dental hygienist or dentist for proper flossing technique for your individual case.
Chemo and radiotherapy can affect oral tissues and cause sensitivity and mouth sores. Some patients report strong gum/tooth sensitivity. As an alternative to a toothbrush, toothettes help brush the teeth when strong sensitivities arise. It is not as good as brushing and flossing but is much better than not cleaning your mouth at all. It feels better and prevents complications.
Individually wrapped, 6 in each kit.
Organic Chamomile tea
Natural sleeping aids are great to experiment with. If they work, great!
Chamomile is one of those plant-of-many-tricks that is considered safe by medical professionals. From calming nerves and stomach, it has been used for centuries. Specifically, chamomile is a non-caffeinated, stress-relieving plant. It is also recommended to be used as a mouth rinse to swish with - helping relieve mouth sores.
"By using the highest quality herbs, there is no need to include any artificial or natural flavoring. Enjoy your tea the way nature intended". Buddha Teas wrote this on the tea bags. Makes sense.
The bags are unbleached as well which was something we went out of the way to find,
drinking chlorine sucks.
Cutlery - Non Metallic
Many chemo patients complain of a metallic taste that can ruin many flavors. The term is 'Metal-mouth'. If you ever licked a 9V battery (please don't), it's a bit like that.
Non-metal cutlery is an easy and safe way to reduce metal mouth. Our Aftercare package includes a set of re-usable cutlery that are easy to wash. It also helps reduce plastic waste from disposable cutlery. Oncolinkuk.org has a great article on reducing metallic taste in cooking. This is also the reason that chocolate doesn't taste good during chemo (sorry!).
Flexible Neck Straws
Most have travel water bottles so we chose not to include them in our chemo packages. Flexible straws are a convenient way to encourage sipping when you have difficulty moving. We prefer reusable versions but those require special cleaning process (which is risky when the immune system is compromised). Disposable straws are a good temporary solution when the need specifically calls for something as critical as staying hydrated when mobility and cross-contamination are an issue.
We are working on sourcing a compostable flexible neck alternative. Painter paper leaches chemicals. Please write us if you see any better solutions.
Many cancer and chemo patients can have trouble eating if too nauseous, if they develop extreme sensitivities to cooking smells or have oral sores which can make eating difficult. Strong spices can sting the oral tissues and hard textures can damage them more easily.
This is a simple meal when regular food is too difficult. It is important to eat despite the body wanting non-of-it. We included these non-flavored oatmeal packets in our backup packages as a timely reprieve should cooking, eating or digestion become difficult.
Oatmeal is low scent, easy to prepare, simple to digest and a source of great nutrition. A tip while cooking; leave the kitchen and turn the vent on while food is cooking and let it cool down first if the scent is too much. Cool food smells less.
Detail about the items in our kits and why we chose them