Problems with saliva production and salivary glands are a significant and mostly permanent side effect for people after radiotherapy treatment to the head and neck. When this occurs the condition is known as dry mouth or xerostomia. Dry mouth is not measurable and is a subjective or personal expression of how the mouth feels. It can have other causes and is a consequence of the production of less saliva or by the consistency of saliva. The rate of flow of saliva in an individual’s mouth however can be measured. People who have dry mouth have a reduced quality of life. They can experience issues with taste and general discomfort, difficulties chewing, swallowing and speaking as well as tooth decay, thrush and other infections of the mouth. A wide range of drugs that work in different ways have been used to try and prevent problems with salivary glands caused by radiotherapy. Unfortunately there is currently not enough evidence to show which drugs or which type of drugs are most effective. Continue reading
Burning mouth syndrome (BMS) is a common painful condition. Symptoms include burning, dryness or uncomfortable sensations in the mouth and changes to taste. There is no obvious underlying medical or dental cause, however scientific research suggests that BMS may be caused by underlying damage to the nerves. BMS is often a persistent and long term condition, which can lead to a reduced quality of life (QoL). There are many treatments available including drugs for treating psychological conditions and increasing saliva production, protective barriers, and treatments applied to the mouth surface. Continue reading
Oral leukoplakia is a white patch formed in the mouth lining that cannot be rubbed off. It often does not hurt and may go unnoticed for years. People with leukoplakia develop oral cancer more often than people without it. Preventing this is critical; rates of oral cancer survival longer than five years after diagnosis are low. Drugs, surgery and other therapies have been tried for treatment of oral leukoplakia. Medical and complementary treatments can be locally applied (i.e. directly onto the white patch) or systemic (affecting the whole body, e.g. taken as a pill). Continue reading
Bisphosphonates are drugs very similar to pyrophosphate (a normal substance found in bone). They are used to lessen symptoms and complications due to the spread of cancer to the bones, and to prevent and treat fragile bones in osteoporosis (a conditon where tiny holes in the bones makes them brittle). These drugs can cause a rare but serious condition called bisphosphonate-related osteonecrosis of the jaw or ‘BRONJ’. BRONJ affects the healing of bone damage by interrupting the process of removing dead bone and laying down new bone. When this happens, parts or all of the jaw bone becomes friable (a bit like chalk), and eventually this dead bone can be exposed. This makes it difficult for people to eat, speak or brush their teeth, and it often causes severe pain. Many different treatments are currently used for BRONJ. They can be categorised as non-invasive treatments (such as antibiotics and mouth rinses), surgical approaches or “add-on” treatments used to enhance usual care (for example, ozone therapy or use of blood plasma that has been enriched with platelets). Different treatments may be combined. Continue reading
People receiving treatment for cancer are at risk of developing a sore mouth and ulcers as a side effect. This side effect is called oral mucositis and affects over 75% of high-risk patients (those receiving radiotherapy to the head and neck or high-dose chemotherapy). The pain caused by this condition can be severe and can stop the person’s ability to eat and drink, which may mean they need to take strong pain killers, stay in hospital and be fed through a tube into their stomach, or even into their veins. This in turn can lead to disruption to their cancer treatment, meaning they are not receiving the best possible treatment. The results may be a reduction in the patient’s chances of survival, and increased costs to the healthcare system. Cancer patients have weakened immune systems due to their treatment, meaning that their bodies are less able to fight infections. This can be a problem if bacteria enter the body through the ulcer, which is an open wound. This can lead to sepsis (a dangerous inflammatory reaction of the body to infection), which requires antibiotics and hospitalisation, and can cause death.
Oral cryotherapy is the cooling of the mouth using ice, ice-cold water, ice cream or ice lollies/popsicles. It is thought to help prevent oral mucositis in people receiving certain types of chemotherapy because the coldness makes the blood vessels in the mouth narrower, and this reduces the amount of blood containing chemotherapy drugs from reaching the mouth and causing oral mucositis. It is a low-cost, natural treatment without serious side effects. Continue reading
Oral cancer (OSCC – oral squamous cell carcinoma) often occurs after a condition called PMD (potentially malignant disorder), which can sometimes progress to cancer. If conditions such as oral cancer or PMD are identified early enough, outcomes for patients can be improved. The current method of diagnosing cancer of the mouth or lips involves the surgical removal of a piece of affected tissue that is sent to a laboratory for histological examination using a microscope (scalpel biopsy). This is painful for patients and involves a delay. The aim of this review was to find out the accuracy of three alternative diagnostic tests that are less invasive and provide more timely results. Continue reading
The sense of taste is essential to the health and psychological well-being of an individual. Taste disorders can range from lack of taste, to distortion of taste, to reduced ability to taste. Any disorder in taste perception can lead to conditions like malnutrition and consumption of poisonous food substances. The cause may be due to disease, drugs, radiation treatment or aging, or it may be from unknown causes. Various treatment methods have been proposed, including the use of zinc supplements, pilocarpine, alpha lipoic acid, transcranial magnetic stimulation, ginkgo bilboa and acupuncture. The review found that zinc supplements may have some benefit, but the evidence was insufficient to draw firm conclusions. Continue reading