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How To Manage Chemotherapy Mouth Sores

Published date field Last Updated:

Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

For many people, cancer treatment is a long journey that affects their quality of life. Chemotherapy mouth sores are a side effect of treatment that affects the inside of the mouth - namely, gums, tongue, inner cheeks, the roof of the mouth, and sometimes the throat. Knowing what to look out for and how to treat this oral side effect can make you feel more at ease. Learn more about mucositis and how your dental team can assist throughout chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy and the Mouth

Chemotherapy is a medical drug used in the treatment of various types of cancer. The treatment can be administered as a pill or intravenously to kill fast-growing cancer cells. Chemo can be used at different stages of the cancer recovery journey. Unfortunately, there are side effects that come with the therapy, including adverse oral effects. Because the cells that line the inside of your mouth and throat also grow rapidly, chemo can damage and inhibit these cells too. This is why a dental oncologist is often part of the medical team helping people undergoing cancer treatment. They manage and treat the oral side effects associated with the treatment.

Oral Mucositis

Oral Mucositis, or mouth sores, is one of cancer therapy's most common side effects. Chemotherapy and radiation can result in inflammation or ulcerations of the mucous membrane (the thin and soft protective tissue that lines the mouth). People with mucositis may experience mouth sores, red and swollen gums, and blood in the mouth. Because the mucous layer is also in the digestive system, sores can spread further to the throat and esophagus.

How to Manage Mouth Sore Discomfort

It is encouraged to consult with a dental oncologist before beginning with chemotherapy. Although this will not prevent mouth sores, it allows for early detection and treatment of any oral issues. Your dentist will continue to be an important part of your cancer treatment journey. They can manage oral complications and suggest products to help alleviate the discomfort. A frequently prescribed remedy is "magic mouthwash," a therapeutic mouthrinse solution that reduces pain and inflammation caused by mouth sores. The formulation often varies but may include some of these ingredients: antibiotics, antihistamine, anti-fungal, and corticosteroid. You can do other things at home like sucking on ice chips or ice pops, as the coolness may ease soreness.

Oral Care During Cancer Treatment

Good oral hygiene helps reduce the severity of sores in the mouth and the risk of infection. Take good care of your oral health during chemotherapy:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush
  • Clean gently between your teeth with a water flosser or interdental brush
  • Rinse with an antiseptic mouthrinse
  • Drink water

Although chemotherapy mouth sores are common, knowing what to expect and how to cope can make all the difference. Consult with your dentist and dental hygienist before, during, and even after your cancer treatment. They can treat the oral side effects of chemo to improve your comfortability. Practice good oral hygiene as this will assist in alleviating mouth sores and possible infections. Your team of health professionals will support you through your treatment journey.


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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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