Ask a Dentist

Q: Will chemotherapy affect my teeth?

Graphic of a person in a hospital bed attached to a monitor and a doctor beside them

A: The purpose of chemotherapy is to kill cancer cells, but it also kills some of your normal cells in the process. These cells are responsible for maintaining various body parts including your gums, teeth, mouth tissues, and saliva glands. Your saliva production, bone health, and balance of mouth bacteria may be disrupted. Chemotherapy also affects your immune system; you may become more vulnerable to dental infections. Radiation, especially on the neck and head, increases your risk of tooth decay.

Ideally, you should visit your dentist at least two weeks before starting chemotherapy. If you’ve already started chemotherapy, see a dentist as soon as possible. Any dental issues you have before chemotherapy may get worse after chemotherapy. Treating your cavities, gum inflammation, broken teeth, loose crowns or fillings earlier rather than later may help prevent serious side effects.

The side effects of chemotherapy may make it hard to eat, talk and swallow. You may get dry mouth, swollen gums, mouth sores or changes to your sense of taste. Keep your mouth moist by drinking water, getting saliva replacement treatment and chewing sugarless gum on occasion. Brush your teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush and rinse with a salt-water solution to cleanse your mouth. Avoid irritating foods, especially acidic, spicy, dry or chewy foods.

We understand how difficult managing your dental health can be, especially when you’re going through cancer treatment. If you don’t have a dentist right now, we’re always accepting new patients. Book a dental appointment with us online or call one of our locations: St. Vital 204-255-0587 | Garden City 204-334-4341.