chewingSymptom Management, Palliative Care, or Supportive Care to relieve side-effects is an important part of cancer care and treatment and should always form part of the overall treatment plan.

Difficulty in chewing occurs when mouth pain, problems with the teeth, or stiffness or pain in the jaw muscles make it difficult for an individual to eat certain foods, especially hard foods. It is important to work with your child’s health care team to find ways to manage difficulty in chewing, as it may cause your child to avoid eating certain foods or to eat smaller amounts of food, which can keep them from getting the calories and nutrients that their body needs to fight the cancer and recuperate from treatment.

Difficulty in chewing may result from physical changes your child’s mouth, jaw, or tongue caused by cancer, especially oral and oropharyngeal cancers. It may also occur as a side effect of their cancer treatment, especially chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery.

Side effects of cancer treatment that can cause chewing problems include:

  • Gum Disease, Tooth Decay, or Tooth Loss, which are all possible long-term side effects of radiation therapy, high-dose chemotherapy, or dry mouth
  • Infections of the mouth after radiation therapy or chemotherapy
  • Mouth Pain, which is caused by nerve damage from some types of chemotherapy
  • Mucositis, which is soreness, pain, or inflammation in the mouth
  • Pain and Stiffness in the Jaw Muscles, either as a possible long-term side effect of radiation therapy to the head and neck or from jaw clenching or tooth grinding
  • Physical Changes to the jaw, mouth, or tongue from surgery
  • Inability to Wear Dentures because of pain or swelling in the mouth or gums
  • Tissue and Bone Loss in the Jaw; a possible long-term side effect of radiation therapy to the head and neck
  • Xerostomia (Dry Mouth) from chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or some antidepressant and pain medications

It is important that your child visit their dentist to find and correct any issues with their teeth and/or mouth that might affect their ability to eat before starting any cancer treatment. If your child’s cancer treatment plan includes surgery on their jaw, you should speak to their doctor about available options to help them maintain their ability to eat.

Read more about the Effects, Signs and Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment and more regarding Difficulty in Chewing on our static page, Chewing Difficulties in Childhood Cancer


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