Tips on Coping With Mouth, Gum, and Throat Problems Related to Chemotherapy
Good oral care is important during cancer treatment. Chemotherapy can cause sores in the mouth and throat. Treatment can also make these tissues dry and irritated or cause them to bleed.
In addition to being painful, mouth sores can become infected by the many germs that live in the mouth. Every step should be taken to prevent infections because they can be hard to fight during chemotherapy and can lead to serious problems.
Here are some tips to help keep your mouth and gums healthy while you have chemotherapy:
- 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 and to use a 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 swab (eg, Toothette).
- 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
Certain foods can injure or worsen your condition. Try to avoid:
- Eating foods that are crunchy or have sharp edges
- Eating foods that are acidic (eg, citric fruits) or spicy
- 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
Last reviewedJune 2012by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.