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Bruce M. MacNicol, DDS, MS, FRCD (C)
Michael T. Jackson, BA, DDS, MSc, FRCD (C)
Andrew P. Gater, HBSc, DDS, FRCD (C)
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Side Effects After Oral Cancer Surgery to Be Aware Of

Posted on 2/17/2017 by Tricia Ramsay
A woman suffering from a stiff jaw after an oral cancer surgery.
Oral cancer affects over 40,000 people in the United States every year. It can be a deadly cancer, especially if detected late.

Early detection and treatment can help eradicate it and greatly increases your chances of survival past 5 years. However, even successful treatment can have side effects.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is a side effect of radiation treatment. Having dry mouth can greatly increase your chances for developing tooth decay and gum disease. This is because your saliva production is affected.

Saliva is important to oral health due to its natural antibiotic properties, killing bacteria as it washes them away, along with lingering food particles. Dry mouth due to radiation doesn't normally go away, but you can combat it by drinking plenty of water and chewing sugar-free gum.

After oral cancer treatment, your mouth is at a much higher risk for developing infections. This is because of both dry mouth and damaged tissue. You may also develop bleeding gums, which can let bacteria in.

Stiff Jaw

The muscles responsible for opening and closing your mouth are affected by radiation treatment. As a result, your jaw may become stiff, and simple functions like eating or speaking can become difficult as well as painful.

Ill-Fitting Dentures

Radiation affects the tissues in your mouth, altering them. If you wear dentures, this means that your once comfortable set no longer fits properly. Wearing them can also cause pain. After the tissues have healed, then you can be fit for a new set of dentures, but it may be up to a year before this can happen.

Slower Healing
Radiation slows your healing time, as it makes it more difficult for tissues in your mouth to heal. It is important to be aware of this if you have procedures done after treatment. Slowed healing can increase your risk of infection.

With early intervention, treatment for oral cancer can be quite successful. However, there are still some side effects to keep in mind. Contact our office dentist for more information on the side effects of oral cancer treatment.

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