How Can You Soothe Mouth Sores From Chemotherapy?

If you are about to start chemotherapy, you may be preparing yourself for possible side effects of the treatment. The drugs used in chemotherapy can effectively kill cancer cells, but they can also damage cells in the mouth. For instance, some patients may develop mucositis, or mouth sores and inflammation, during treatment. Mouth sores can make brushing, flossing, and even eating uncomfortable; thankfully, there are ways to manage this problem. Read on to learn more. 

Ask Your Dentist for a "Magic Mouthwash" Prescription

Colgate says that there is no definitive mix of ingredients for mouth rinses used for chemo patients, but the name "magic mouthwash" has stuck and refers to special mouth rinse mixes that are prescribed by your dentist. These mouthwashes can be made up of one or more of the following ingredients:

  • Antacids
  • Antihistamines
  • Local anesthetics
  • Antibiotics
  • Corticosteroids

Similar to a compounding pharmacy's medications, the magic mouthwash your dentist prescribes will be customized to fit your needs and the severity of the mucositis.

Use a Bland Rinse to Manage Symptoms

The downside of prescription mouthwashes is that they may only be able to use them a couple of times each day. Bland rinses are beneficial because they don't cause extreme dry mouth, and they can be used more often to improve your comfort levels. Bland rinses can be made from regular tap water, sodium bicarbonate, or a saline solution. One study found that salt-and-soda rinses were affordable and could be just as effective as prescription mouth rinses when patients are in a pinch.

Maintain Your At-Home Care

It may be tempting to forgo brushing and flossing while your mouth hurts, but good oral hygiene will reduce the severity of the mucositis and decrease the risk of infection. If your current toothbrush is too rough, be sure to get a smaller one—like a child-size toothbrush—that has soft bristles. Regular string floss can irritate gums, so you may want to use an interdental brush or use a water flosser on the weakest setting.

Stay Hydrated and Use Ice Chips

The Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) found that cold water and ice chips were helpful in preventing oral sores because the cold temperature constricts vessels and prevents mucous tissue from being exposed to chemo drugs. Staying hydrated is also helpful because it encourages saliva flow, which provides protection and lubrication to oral tissues and neutralizes acids from foods.

Reach out to a dentist in your area today for more information on how to control mouth sores related to chemotherapy.