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Mouth Care During Chemotherapy

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 and 1/4 teaspoon salt mixed in 1 cup of warm 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 an extra soft toothbrush and mild toothpaste.

  • Gently brush your teeth and gums.

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

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 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

Avoid foods that are:

  • Sharp or crunchy

  • Hot, salty, or spicy

  • Acidic, such as citrus juices

When to seek medical advice

  • You develop mouth sores

  • Mouth pain keeps you from eating or resting

Online Medical Reviewer: Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: LoCicero, Richard, MD
Last Review Date: 1/5/2016
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