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Mouth Care During Chemotherapy

Call the Doctor If:

  • You develop mouth sores

  • Mouth pain keeps you from eating

Mouth sores (stomatitis) and dry mouth are common side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. These side effects occur because these treatments affect normal cells as well as cancer cells. Using the tips on this handout may help you feel better.

 Remedies That Help

  • Rinse with 1/2 teaspoon baking soda in a glass of water. This helps keep your mouth free of germs.

  • Use products that coat and protect the mouth and throat. Or use medications that coat and soothe mouth sores themselves.

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

Prevent Mouth Sores

Woman standing in bathroom with head tilted back and mouth tightly shut. She is holding glass of water with baking soda. Box of baking soda is on counter.
Rinse with baking soda.

  • Buy a special type of soft toothbrush, mild toothpaste, and mouthwash without alcohol.

  • Gently brush your teeth and gums.

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

Moisten a Dry Mouth

  • Drink plenty of water. Take frequent sips, or keep a spray bottle.

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

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

  • Apply lip balm to help prevent dry lips.

  • Avoid 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

Online Medical Reviewer: de la Cruz, Marlene, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Eisenberg, Seth, RN, OCN
Last Review Date: 11/3/2011
© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.