Tips For A Smooth Recovery From Oral Surgery

An estimated 51,500 adults in the United States get diagnosed with oral and oropharyngeal cancers each year. Many of these people require oral surgery as part of their treatment. Oral surgery itself can present problems, such as damaging teeth and gums, causing pain and swelling. Dealing with these before and after surgery can help to speed up your recovery time and improve your comfort throughout, getting you back to life as soon as possible.

Caring for your teeth

Many cancer patients lose their appetite during treatment or struggle to eat after oral surgery. They are encouraged to have high calorie drinks for nutrients, but these often contain a lot of sugar and can be very damaging to teeth.Oral surgery for cancer can be done after doses of chemotherapy or radiation, which can weaken teeth and gums. If you have any teeth that are damaged or vulnerable you should consider having these extracted before surgery as bone necrosis can occur afterwards, particularly if you’ve had oral radiotherapy. Once you’ve recovered, lost and damaged teeth can be replaced with dentures or dental implants to give a natural look and feel, helping you to live a normal life again.

What you can eat after oral surgery

Your surgeon will offer you advice specific to you, but there are some basic guidelines you should follow. Once any bleeding stops and for the first two days post-op you can eat soft foods and liquids, such as yogurt, soups and smoothies. Include foods that are rich in vitamins A and C as these help to speed up recovery from surgery. A study from the National Institutes of Health gave patients 500-3,000 mg of vitamin C, which is 8-50 times higher than the RDA. All patients were recovering from various types of surgeries, including oral surgeries. They found that the high doses promoted new collagen synthesis, which helped wounds to heal faster. Research from the University of Michigan also found that high doses of vitamin C before surgery reduced the risk of excessive bleeding, so upping your intake before and after can be beneficial.

Dealing with pain and swelling

Unfortunately, after almost any oral surgery you will experience some pain, swelling and possible bruising. Many surgeons will advise you to regularly put ice on the area to reduce swelling, however recent research indicates that ice can stop the immune system’s natural response and actually delay healing. Ice can be a natural pain relief though, so if you choose to use it, apply it for 5 minutes at a time with 20 minute breaks in between as this is less likely to stop the body’s natural response. You’ll probably receive pain medication too, make sure you take this as instructed, even before pain occurs as it can prevent it.

Recovering from oral surgery can be painful, but it can also be a step in the right direction for your recovery, helping you to lead a normal and happy life. Pain and swelling are to be expected, and consuming soft foods and plenty of nutrients and minerals can help with this.

How Cancer Can Affect Your Dental Health

More than one-third of all cancer patients develop complications or side effects that can affect the mouth, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. While it is probably one of the last things you want to think about when faced with a cancer diagnosis, assessing your dental health and developing an action plan for how you will care for and protect your teeth and gums is a great way to ensure you don’t experience complications that can affect your treatment and general health.

Assessing Your Dental Health

The American Dental Association recommends treating areas of concern before you engage in any cancer treatment as it may help reduce possible side effects associated with chemotherapy and radiation. If you are able to do this beforehand, you will be able to address any issues such as cavities, gum disease or other dental hygiene issues that have the possibility of getting worse as you get further into treatment. They also recommend stopping the use of all tobacco products, eating healthy foods to help make your immune system stronger and rinsing your mouth with hot water, baking soda and salt to ensure it’s clean and not a breeding ground for infection.

How to Care for Your Teeth with Cancer

If you experience issues such as dry mouth, mouth sores, jaw pain or sensitive gums, you will want to speak directly with your doctor as they can provide you with more accurate advice and medications. However, to ensure you’re following a great general oral hygiene routine, it’s recommended to brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and to floss every day as it helps remove plaque buildup and keep your mouth extra clean. If your mouth and gums are sore, there are alternatives to traditional flossing that might feel more comfortable. If you are still experiencing pain, try soaking your toothbrush in hot water before brushing to make it softer and look for a toothpaste with aloe vera and allantoin as they’ve been shown to help soothe pain in the mouth.

Common Oral Side Effects During Cancer Treatment

During treatment for cancer, your oral health and dental hygiene can be affected, among other things, due to the fact that your immune system is weakened and you are prone to various side effects. Dry mouth and painful sores are some of the most common side effects reported and can cause issues for the health of your teeth as saliva is generally used to wash away food particles and other bacteria. If you find that are experiencing dry mouth, whether in treatment or not, it is best to ask your doctor for artificial saliva and also fluoride gel. This gel will come with a tray that will slip into your mouth and, with the help of the fluoride gel, strengthens and protects your teeth.

Staying Positive About Your Health

Caring for your oral health is just one aspect of working through a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment. It is important to consult your doctor with any concerns you might have and gain a solid understanding of what your treatment will require and how it will affect your dental hygiene. Throughout all of it, however, it is most important to remain positive about your health and work to understand that it is a tough process, but with the right care and support, will only make you stronger.