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Mouth Care During Chemotherapy

Mouth sores (stomatitis) and dry mouth are common side effects of chemotherapy. These side effects occur because the medicines affect normal cells as well as cancer cells. The tips below can help you feel better.

 Remedies that help

  • Rinse your mouth several times a day. Use 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt mixed in 1 quart of warm water. Swish and spit. This helps keep your mouth free of germs.

  • Use products that coat and protect your mouth and throat. Or use medicines that coat and soothe mouth sores.

  • Numb your mouth and throat with sprays or lozenges to make eating easier.

Prevent mouth sores

  • Buy an extra soft toothbrush and mild toothpaste.

  • Gently brush your teeth and gums.

  • Have your dentist treat any dental problems before your therapy begins.

Woman brushing her teeth.

Moisten a dry mouth

  • Drink plenty of water. Take frequent sips or suck on ice chips.

  • Suck on sugar-free candy and lozenges. Chew sugar-free gum.

  • Use products that moisten the mouth if your healthcare provider prescribes them.

  • Apply lip balm to help prevent dry lips.

  • Don't use mouthwash that contains alcohol.

Choose foods less likely to irritate

Try foods that are:

  • Soft and go down smoothly, such as a milkshake or food puréed with a blender

  • Served cold or at room temperature

  • Cooked until tender and cut into small pieces

Don't eat foods that are:

  • Sharp or crunchy

  • Hot, salty, or spicy

  • Acidic, such as citrus fruits

See your healthcare provider if:

  • You develop mouth sores

  • Mouth pain keeps you from eating or resting

Online Medical Reviewer: LoCicero, Richard, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Sather, Rita, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2018
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