Mucositis is an inflammation of the tissues that line the inside of the mouth. This painful condition affects up to 40 percent of chemotherapy patients, explains the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), and it's one of the most common side effects of chemotherapy. Fortunately, there are many options for mucositis treatment.
Mucositis Treatment Options
Chemotherapy drugs attack cancer cells, but they can also attack healthy cells in the body that divide quickly, explains the National Institutes of Health. The cells that make up the lining of the mouth fall into this category, so they can be inadvertently targeted by chemotherapy treatments. When these cells are targeted, the tissue becomes vulnerable to ulceration or infection, says The Oral Cancer Foundation.
In some cases, mucositis can be prevented. ASCO recommends sucking on ice chips before and after each treatment session since this may protect your tissues. An oral care routine that includes salt water rinses can also prevent mucositis or decrease its severity.
Mucositis usually appears seven to 10 days after chemotherapy treatment begins, according to the National Cancer Institute. The lining of your mouth may become red, swollen or sore, and you may develop sores. Other tissues inside your mouth, like your gums or tongue, may also be affected. These symptoms can make eating painful, and you may have trouble swallowing or talking. Your dentist can help you deal with these side effects. He or she may recommend treatments like home remedies or medications.
Dietary changes may be helpful when you're recovering from mucositis. Spicy, salty, acidic, dry or hot foods can irritate your sore tissues, so your dentist may recommend avoiding them. Non-irritating foods include milkshakes, puddings, oatmeal and noodles. Pureeing foods can also make them easier to eat, recommends the University of Arizona Cancer Center.
Your dentist may recommend other home remedies like increasing your fluid intake, eating more protein and avoiding alcohol. If your mouthwash contains alcohol, replace it with a gentle, alcohol-free mouthwash like Colgate Total Advanced Pro-Shield that freshens breath.