Chemotherapy is the use of medication to treat cancer 13. Treatment targets the rapidly dividing cancer cells, but can also affect other cells -- including those in your mouth. These medications also reduce your body's ability to fight infection. Chemotherapy may cause tooth decay, pain or infection.
Tooth decay occurs when plaque -- acids created by a sticky film of bacteria -- attack your tooth enamel. This acid breaks down the enamel, creating tiny holes called cavities in your tooth. Chemotherapy affects the salivary glands causing them to reduce saliva production. This creates a condition known as xerostomia, or dry mouth. Saliva is vital to oral hygiene as it helps to prevent tooth decay. Saliva neutralizes the acid on your teeth and gums, preventing it from attacking the tooth enamel causing cavities. Chemotherapy also disrupts the balance between the beneficial and harmful bacteria in the mouth. This can allow the harmful bacteria to take over and attach to your teeth, promoting tooth decay.
- Tooth decay occurs when plaque -- acids created by a sticky film of bacteria -- attack your tooth enamel.
- Saliva neutralizes the acid on your teeth and gums, preventing it from attacking the tooth enamel causing cavities.
How to Clean Germs Below the Gumline
Chemotherapy can affect the growth and development of children's teeth. The treatments can affect both the size and shape of developing teeth, as well as delay the eruption of new teeth. Most children receiving chemotherapy for childhood cancers will have to undergo orthodontic treatments to help fix their teeth.
Chemotherapy can cause pain in your teeth and jaw. This pain can be caused by grinding your teeth at night due to the stress of treatments. It can also be caused by damage to the nerves around the teeth. This nerve damage can also lead to tooth sensitivities even after treatments have ceased.
- Chemotherapy can cause pain in your teeth and jaw.
- It can also be caused by damage to the nerves around the teeth.
Antibiotics Used for Gum Infection
The cells in the lining of the mouth are often damaged by chemotherapy. This damage can lead to sores and infections that can also affect the health of the teeth. Chemotherapy destroys white blood cells, weakening your immune system. This means the body is less able to fight off infections from bacteria, fungus and viruses. With a weakened immune system, even the good bacteria in the mouth can cause infection. People on chemotherapy are often given antibiotics to avoid infections of the mouth. If left untreated however, the infection can spread within the gums, resulting in tooth loss.
- The cells in the lining of the mouth are often damaged by chemotherapy.
- If left untreated however, the infection can spread within the gums, resulting in tooth loss.
How to Clean Germs Below the Gumline
Antibiotics Used for Gum Infection
Disadvantages of Tooth Whitening
What Happens If Rotten Teeth Are Left Unattended?
How to Safely Remove Plaque From Children's Teeth
How to Stop a Toothache Immediately
Side Effects of Whitening With Carbamide Peroxide
Tooth Pain After Eating
How to Clean a Toothbrush
Are There Side Effects of Tongue Brushes?
- The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, Clinical Guidelines: Guideline on Dental Management of Pediatric Patients Receiving Chemotherapy, Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, and/or Radiation
- Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center: Dental Health Following Cancer Treatment
- The Royal College of Surgeons of England/The British Society for Disability and Oral Health, Clinical Guidelines: The Oral Management of Oncology Patients Requiring Radiotherapy, Chemotherapy and /or Bone Marrow Transplantation
- Fukuda KI. Diagnosis and treatment of abnormal dental pain. J Dent Anesth Pain Med. 2016;16(1):1-8. doi:10.17245/jdapm.2016.16.1.1
- Pihlstrom BL, Michalowicz BS, Johnson NW. Periodontal diseases. Lancet. 2005;366(9499):1809-20. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(05)67728-8
- Heng C. Tooth Decay Is the Most Prevalent Disease. Fed Pract. 2016;33(10):31-33.
- Tonguc MO, Ozat Y, Sert T, Sonmez Y, Kirzioglu FY. Tooth sensitivity in fluorotic teeth. Eur J Dent. 2011;5(3):273-80.
- Yap AU, Chua AP. Sleep bruxism: Current knowledge and contemporary management. J Conserv Dent. 2016;19(5):383-9. doi:10.4103/0972-0707.190007
- Rechenberg DK, Galicia JC, Peters OA. Biological Markers for Pulpal Inflammation: A Systematic Review. PLoS ONE. 2016;11(11):e0167289. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0167289
- Lubisich EB, Hilton TJ, Ferracane J. Cracked teeth: a review of the literature. J Esthet Restor Dent. 2010;22(3):158-67. doi:10.1111/j.1708-8240.2010.00330.x
- Shweta, Prakash SK. Dental abscess: A microbiological review. Dent Res J (Isfahan). 2013;10(5):585-91.
- Santosh P. Impacted Mandibular Third Molars: Review of Literature and a Proposal of a Combined Clinical and Radiological Classification. Ann Med Health Sci Res. 2015;5(4):229-34. doi:10.4103/2141-9248.160177
- Candamourty R, Venkatachalam S, Babu MR, Kumar GS. Ludwig's Angina - An emergency: A case report with literature review. J Nat Sci Biol Med. 2012;3(2):206-8. doi:10.4103/0976-9668.101932
- Yeo GS, Kim HY, Kwak EJ, Jung YS, Park HS, Jung HD. Cavernous sinus thrombosis caused by a dental infection: a case report. J Korean Assoc Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2014;40(4):195-8. doi:10.5125/jkaoms.2014.40.4.195
- Jacobsen PL, Casagrande AM. Sinusitis as a source of dental pain. Dent Today. 2003;22(9):110-3.
- Murphy MK, Macbarb RF, Wong ME, Athanasiou KA. Temporomandibular disorders: a review of etiology, clinical management, and tissue engineering strategies. Int J Oral Maxillofac Implants. 2013;28(6):e393-414. doi:10.11607/jomi.te20
- Becker DE. Pain management: Part 1: Managing acute and postoperative dental pain. Anesth Prog. 2010;57(2):67-78. doi:10.2344/0003-3006-57.2.67
- Guaita M, Högl B. Current Treatments of Bruxism. Curr Treat Options Neurol. 2016;18(2):10. doi:10.1007/s11940-016-0396-3
- Lee Y. Diagnosis and Prevention Strategies for Dental Caries. J Lifestyle Med. 2013;3(2):107-9.
- Kaptan RF, Haznedaroglu F, Basturk FB, Kayahan MB. Treatment approaches and antibiotic use for emergency dental treatment in Turkey. Ther Clin Risk Manag. 2013;9:443-9. doi:10.2147/TCRM.S52009
- American Association of Endodontists. (n.d.). Cracked Teeth. https://www.aae.org/patients/dental-symptoms/cracked-teeth/
- American Dental Association. (n.d.). Abscess (Toothache). https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/a/abscess
- Chow AW. (2018). Submandibular space infections (Ludwig's angina). In: UpToDate, Calderwood SB (Ed), UpToDate, Waltham, MA.
- Hennessy BJ. (2018). Merck Manual Professional Version: Toothache and Infection. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dental-disorders/symptoms-of-dental-and-oral-disorders/toothache-and-infection?query=dental%20abscess
- Schweitzer JL. The Endodontic Diagnostic Puzzle. Gen Dent. 2009;57(6):560-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19906608
- Ubertalli JT. Merck Manual. Professional Version. (2018). Pulpitis. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dental-disorders/common-dental-disorders/pulpitis?_ga=2.233168734.1798272777.1553437191-365578483.1553437191
Stephanie Chandler is a freelance writer whose master's degree in biomedical science and over 15 years experience in the scientific and pharmaceutical professions provide her with the knowledge to contribute to health topics. Chandler has been writing for corporations and small businesses since 1991. In addition to writing scientific papers and procedures, her articles are published on Overstock.com and other websites.