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Tips on Coping With Mouth, Gum, and Throat Problems Related to Chemotherapy
Ways to Keep You Healthy
- Make an appointment to visit your dentist at least two weeks before you start chemotherapy. You may need to get your teeth cleaned and have treatment for any problems, like getting a cavity filled.
- Talk to your dentist about special ways that you should care for your teeth during chemotherapy. For example, you may need to brush your teeth a certain way, or use an alcohol-free fluoride rinse.
- Create a routine so that you brush your teeth after every meal. Use a special toothbrush that has very soft bristles. Gently clean your teeth and gums.
- Floss gently every day. Floss only areas where your gums do not bleed or hurt. Ask your doctor about flossing if your blood platelet count is low.
- After brushing your teeth, rinse your toothbrush and allow it dry.
- If it hurts when you use a regular toothbrush, try using an oral cotton swab.
- Do not use mouthwash because it can irritate your mouth and gums.
- If you have dentures, carefully clean them. Try to give your gums a break by not wearing your dentures.
Things to Avoid
- Eating foods that are crunchy or have sharp edges
- Eating foods that are spicy or acidic
- Consuming foods or drinks that have a lot of sugar
- Drinking alcoholic beverages
- Placing anything in your mouth, like a toothpick, that can cause an injury
- Smoking cigarettes or using any other form of tobacco
Coping With Mouth Sores
- Talk to your healthcare team. Find out if there is medication that you can apply to the sores.
- Avoid consuming foods or drinks that are hot or even warm. These can cause the sores to be even more painful.
- Eat foods that are soft and easy to chew. Some examples include ice cream, applesauce, scrambled eggs, and cottage cheese. You can also use a blender to make food easier to eat.
- Eat and drink slowly.
Coping With Mouth Dryness
- Talk to your healthcare team. You may need to use an artificial saliva product.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids.
- Try to keep your mouth moist by sucking on small pieces of ice, popsicles, or hard candy. Chewing gum may also be helpful.
- Apply lip balm to your dry lips.
American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org
National Cancer Institute http://www.cancer.gov
BC Cancer Agency http://www.bccancer.bc.ca
Canadian Cancer Society http://www.cancer.ca
Chemotherapy and you. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/chemotherapy-and-you.pdf. Published June 2011. Accessed March 5, 2014.
Toxicities of chemotherapeutic agents. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 11, 2014. Accessed March 5, 2014.
Understanding chemotherapy: a guide for patients and families. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003025-pdf.pdf. Accessed March 5, 2014.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 03/2014
- Update Date: 00/30/2014