Select language:  
1800 620 420
Close menu

Dental and oral care in blood cancer

Dental and oral care is very important before, during and after treatment for cancer. Dental and oral complications from blood cancer treatment can be acute (during treatment) and/or delayed (months to years after treatment).

Common dental and oral complications from cancer treatment include:

  • Oral mucositis (ulcers and sore/inflamed lining in the mouth)
  • Infection, including viral and fungal
  • Fever from mouth infection
  • Taste alteration
  • Dry mouth
  • Mouth pain
  • Tooth decay

It is always a good idea to visit a dentist before starting treatment. It is particularly important if you already have problems with your teeth.

Dental check/clearance before treatment:

  • Provides the dentist with information on your treatment and diagnosis.
  • Records original appearance, condition and structure of your teeth.
  • Allows for a thorough dental exam and cleaning.
  • Allows for removal or treatment of any dental problems or possible future problems. (Removal and/or major treatment of teeth needs to be at least 7 days before chemotherapy or as per instruction from your treatment team).
  • Provides dental education and the importance of oral hygiene.

Things to consider during and after treatment:

  • Regular dental checks, at least every 6 months or as advised by your dentist.
  • Ensure good dental hygiene to keep your mouth clean.
  • Use a soft toothbrush to brush your teeth, gums and tongue at least twice a day.
  • Use a mild toothpaste.
  • Use an alcohol-free mouthwash after eating. Use a solution of ¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda or ¼ teaspoon salt in 1 cup of warm water.
  • Gently floss your teeth every day, be extra gentle on any areas that bleed or are sore.
  • If you have dentures/protheses/plates get them checked to make sure they fit well. Remove them to clean, brush, and rinse them and your mouth after meals.
  • Use a saliva substitute product if needed for dry mouth.
  • Suck on ice chips to help with oral mucositis and dry mouth.
  • Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugar-free lozenges, this can help with dry mouth and loss of taste.
  • Avoid elective treatments like teeth whitening and veneers.
  • See the dentist immediately if any problems arise.
  • Avoid extractions if possible – they can cause problems. If they are required, a plan between your dentist and treatment team will need to be strictly adhered to.
  • Use a lip balm with animal or plant-based oils to prevent dry/cracked lips.

If you have oral mucositis there are some things you should avoid to prevent further damage:

  • Foods that can damage the lining of your mouth (hard/rough textured and hot/spicy/acidic foods).
  • Sugary foods, like lollies or cordial.
  • Toothpicks or sharp utensils.
  • Smoking, other oral nicotine products, and alcohol.

Osteonecrosis of the jaw

Find out more about this uncommon complication of treatment

Support Services

The Leukaemia Foundation offers free support to anyone affected by a blood cancer in Australia.

Transport service assistance

Find out about transport assistance options that may be available to you.