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Mouth Care During Chemotherapy

Mouth sores (stomatitis) and dry mouth are common side effects of chemotherapy. These side effects occur because the medicines affect normal cells as well as cancer cells. The tips below can help you feel better.

 Remedies that help

  • Rinse your mouth several times a day. Use 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt mixed in 1 quart of warm water. Swish and spit. This helps keep your mouth free of germs.

  • Use products that coat and protect your mouth and throat. Or use medicines that coat and soothe mouth sores.

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

Prevent mouth sores

  • Buy an extra soft toothbrush or foam brush and mild toothpaste. Check with your provider about whether to use fluoride toothpaste.

  • Gently brush your teeth and gums. Check with your provider before flossing teeth. Report any extra bleeding when you floss.

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

    Woman brushing her teeth.
    Brush gently with an extra soft toothbrush and mild toothpaste.

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 healthcare provider prescribes them.

  • Apply lip balm to help prevent dry lips.

  • Don't use 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

Don't eat foods that are:

  • Sharp or crunchy

  • Hot, salty, or spicy

  • Acidic, such as citrus fruits

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:

  • Mouth cuts or sores

  • Mouth pain that keeps you from eating or resting

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • White patches on your tongue or inside your mouth

Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Richard LoCicero MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2021
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