Navigating Oral Care

With chemotherapy, your mouth and throat can be damaged. This might lead to the development of mouth sores, dry mouth or changes in taste and smell. Also, individuals who receive radiation to the head and neck area may experience mouth and throat changes. Sometimes chemotherapy and radiation therapy can decrease the amount of saliva in your mouth so that your mouth becomes very dry and your saliva becomes thick.

Routine oral care should be performed every 4 hours and after meals. Routine care includes: removal of dentures; atraumatic cleansing with soft bristle toothbrush or foam swabs; oral rinses with a weak solution of salt and baking soda (one-half teaspoon of salt and one teaspoon of baking soda in a quart of water), hydrogen peroxide solution – diluted 1:1 with water for gentle debridement (should only be used acutely, can delay healing); limit diet – consume foods that do not require significant chewing. Avoid sharp, crunchy, spicy or citrus foods, alcoholic beverages and tobacco when your mouth is sore. Eat cool or room temperature foods and foods that are soft and easy to swallow, like cooked cereals, soft-boiled or scrambled eggs, yogurt and puddings. Ice chips or popsicles may reduce pain, but tell your doctor or nurse if you need pain medication for your mouth sores.