oral care

Because your therapy affects the cells that line your mouth, you may feel a slight soreness within 7-10 days after therapy starts.  Proper mouth care can help prevent or reduce the effects on your mouth. Not all chemotherapy drugs cause soreness, and few patients experience serious problems. However, if you are receiving a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy in the head or neck area, your mouth can become quite tender.

  • Open your mouth wide and look inside for areas of redness, swelling, tenderness, coating on the tongue, or white patches. Report problems to your doctor.
  • Brush your teeth with a soft toothbrush within 30 minutes after each meal and at bedtime.
  • If you normally floss your teeth, continue to do so once a day. Floss gently and use un-waxed dental floss. Stop if there is pain or bleeding. Do not floss if the doctor tells you your platelet count or WBC count is low.
  • Rinse your mouth after meals and at bedtime with a salt water solution which you can make by adding 1 teaspoon of salt to 2 cups of water. If you would prefer, you can use a baking soda solution: 1 teaspoon of baking soda to 2 cups of water.
  • If you wear dentures, remove them at night to give your gums a rest. Always keep the dentures in water to prevent warping. Do not wear your dentures if they do not fit properly, have rough spots on them, or cause painful areas in your mouth. Call your dentist to have them checked.
  • Do not use commercial mouthwashes. Many mouthwashes contain alcohol which is drying and irritating to sensitive tissues in your mouth.
  • Drink lots of fluids, at least 8 cups of liquid daily, if possible. Keep your mouth moist. If you do not like water, drink fruit juices, warm or cool teas and/or non-carbonated beverages.
  • If you have taste changes and/or a metallic taste in your mouth, chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless, fruit-flavored candy. This will stimulate the flow of saliva and reduce bad tastes.  Frequent mouth care, especially before eating, will also diminish the unpleasant taste in your mouth.
  • If your mouth is becoming reddened or slightly sore, run your soft toothbrush under hot water to make it softer before using it or buy a child’s soft toothbrush. Stop brushing if it becomes too painful.
  • For increasing discomfort, rinse your mouth every two hours.
  • Call your doctor if you notice blisters, sores, or open areas on your lips or in your mouth.  You may need medications, pain relief or something that will help you to swallow soft foods and liquids with more ease.
  • Keep your lips moist by applying moisturizer or lip balm every 2 hours.
  • When your mouth is sore, avoid hot (temperature), spicy, acidic (orange juice or fruit, grapefruit, tomatoes, lemon) or coarse, rough foods. Try soft, cool or liquid foods like milk shakes, creamed soups, ice cream, pudding, custards, sherbet, frozen yogurt, popsicles, soft eggs, instant breakfast or protein drinks.
  • Your doctor may give you a prescription for a special mouthwash that has medicine to fight virus and fungus, and it is numbing to help with pain. Some doctors suggest using Peridex, also.
  • Call your doctor if you have any concerns about your mouth and especially if you have increasing pain or redness or any kind of sores appear.
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco.
  • It is important to continue this routine for at least 2 weeks after your last treatment.