Mouth, Gums and Throat Problems

Oncology Dietitian

Call our oncology dietitian with questions or concerns about nutritional needs at 816.691.1795.

While being treated with chemotherapy, mouth care is especially important because the skin inside it can be affected by the medicine. Look inside your mouth daily for sores, dryness, redness, burning or an infection. Practicing proper mouth care from the start can help prevent symptoms.

General Mouth Care

  • Have dental work done before starting treatment. While receiving treatment, talk with the doctor before seeing a dentist.
  • Brush teeth, gums and tongue with an extra-soft toothbrush after every time you eat. Rinse the toothbrush well after each use, and store it in a dry place. Skip the toothbrush and dental floss if gums bleed easily.
  • Avoid commercial mouthwashes that contain alcohol. Instead, rinse your mouth with salt water. To make the rinse, mix 1 teaspoon of salt with 1 quart of water. Or make a salt water and baking soda rinse by mixing 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda with 1 quart of water.
  • Rinse with a saline solution every four hours while awake, after brushing your teeth, after every meal and at bedtime. If sores, blisters, painful areas or white patches develop, increase saline rinses to every two hours, and call the doctor.
  • Remove and clean dentures and partials after eating and when rinsing with saline. During extended periods of sleep, soak them in clean water.
  • Use toothpicks carefully.
  • Apply lip balm often.

Relieve Dry Mouth

  • Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and spicy foods.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Eat soft and pureed foods.
  • Limit use of peroxide solutions.
  • Moisten dry foods with butter, margarine, gravy, sauces or broth, or dunk them in mild liquids.
  • Suck on ice chips, popsicles or sugarless hard candy and/or chew sugarless gum.
  • Use an artificial saliva substitute and mouth moisturizing mouthwash,
  • Sleep with a cool mist humidifier by your bed.

Foods That Soothe a Sore Mouth

  • Drink dietary supplements if you cannot eat solid food.
  • Eat foods cool or at room temperature.
  • Eat high-protein (eggs, cheese, meat, fish) and high-calorie foods.
  • Eat soft foods, such as:
    • Baby food
    • Cooked cereal
    • Cottage cheese
    • Custard, pudding, yogurt or gelatin
    • Ice cream
    • Macaroni and cheese
    • Mashed potatoes
    • Milkshakes
    • Soft-boiled or scrambled eggs
    • Soft fruits (bananas and applesauce)
  • Puree cooked foods in a blender to make them easier to eat.
  • Avoid tomatoes; citrus fruit; fruit juice (orange, grapefruit and lemon); spicy or salty foods; and rough, coarse or dry foods (raw vegetables, granola, crackers and toast).

When to Call the Doctor

Call the doctor immediately if you have:

  • Fever of 100.5°F or higher
  • Not been able to eat or drink for more than 24 hours
  • Open sores, white patches, or blisters in the mouth or on the lips
  • Uncontrolled mouth pain