5 Things Chemotherapy Patients Need To Know About Neurotoxicity
Chemotherapy is a common cancer treatment, but it can lead to a lot of complications throughout your body, including inside your mouth. One of these complications is neurotoxicity, a type of nerve damage, which may cause oral health problems such as toothaches. Here are five things that chemotherapy patients need to know about neurotoxicity.
What is neurotoxicity?
Neurotoxicity is a possible long-term effect of chemotherapy drugs. It means that your peripheral nervous system has been damaged and no longer works the way it should. Your nerves control a lot of functions throughout your body, so neurotoxicity can cause a huge variety of symptoms. Possible symptoms include paralysis, imbalance, or altered sensation. Altered sensation may include pain that has no apparent cause.
How does chemotherapy cause it?
Chemotherapy drugs are toxins that kill cancer cells, but your own healthy cells are not immune to the effects. The toxins can damage the cells that make up your nervous system, and when this happens, your nerves will not be able to transmit signals the same way they did before.
How does neurotoxicity affect your oral health?
Neurotoxicity can lead to pain or numbness within your mouth. You may feel pain within your jaw or jaw joint, severe toothaches, or numbness in your oral tissues. These problems are more than just an inconvenience.
Pain in your jaw joints may make it hard for you to open your mouth fully, which makes it hard for you to brush and floss your teeth effectively. If your jaw is very sore, you may not be able to open your mouth wide enough to fit a toothbrush or floss between your teeth. This is a big problem because if you are able to clean your teeth, you will be a risk of health problems like tooth decay or gum disease.
Severe toothaches are also a concern. These toothaches can be frustrating for patients because it's hard for dentists to diagnose them. The pain is caused by nerve damage, so tests will show absolutely nothing wrong with your tooth itself. Make sure to tell your dentist that you are undergoing chemotherapy to help them identify the problem.
Numbness of the oral tissues can also be dangerous. If your tissues are numb, you may bite your tongue, lip, or the inside of your cheek while you're eating, and you may not even notice that it happened until you taste blood.
How can your dentist help?
If you have neurotoxicity, there are many things that your dentist can do to help protect your oral health. If you have pain in your jaw joint that makes it hard for you to clean your teeth, your dentist may prescribe a painkiller to help you move your jaw without pain. Your dentist may also recommend alternative ways to clean your teeth that don't require you to open your mouth quite as far. Instead of using a traditional toothbrush, you may be told to clean your mouth with a saltwater solution or a mouthwash. Instead of using traditional floss, your dentist may recommend that you try a water flosser.
If you have severe toothaches, your dentist can perform a root canal to get rid of the pain. This treatment involves removing the pulp from the inside of your tooth and replacing it with an artificial filling. Even though there is nothing technically wrong with your tooth, this procedure is done because the pulp is full of nerves. Once the pulp is gone, you will have no sensation left in that tooth.
If you bite your oral tissues, your dentist can repair the damage. To avoid further damage, your dentist may recommend sticking to foods that you don't need to chew, like soup or smoothies.
Is neurotoxicity permanent?
Fortunately, neurotoxicity will usually go away on its own soon after you finish your chemotherapy treatments.
If you think you may be suffering from neurotoxicity, talk to your dentist so that you can manage the oral side effects of the condition.
For more information on dentistry, contact a company like Schererville Family Dentistry, PC.