How to protect your mouth during cancer treatment

Visiting your dentist prior to your first radiation treatment is the first step to keeping your mouth healthy. Once you begin your radiation treatment it is important to examine your mouth each day looking for any sores or changes that might occur.


Radiation therapy to the head and neck, and chemotherapy can all cause oral problems. Chemotherapy affects rapidly by dividing cells. Cancer cells and normal cells, such as those lining the mouth, the gastrointestinal tract, bone marrow cells, and hair cells, divide rapidly. Chemotherapy cannot differentiate between normal cells and malignant cells, injuring sometimes both. Therefore, it may lower white blood cell count, platelet count, and red blood count. Resulting increasing the risk for infection and bleeding.


Painful sores and dry mouth are the most common side effects. Increasing the risk of tooth decay since saliva washes away food particles from the teeth and helps reduce that risk. As an alternative, use artificial saliva to ease the discomfort and protect your teeth. Using customized trays with fluoride can also help to


Radiation causes changes in the muscles and bones that open and close the mouth. Keeping your mouth and jaw as flexible as possible will be recommended by your dentist to prevent these complications from worsening.


These tips can help prevent and treat a sore mouth:

  • Drink a lot of water and suck ice chips.
  • Use a saliva substitute to help moisten your mouth.
  • Clean your mouth, tongue, and gums use and extra-soft toothbrush after every meal and at bedtime.
  • Use a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Avoid mouthwashes with alcohol in them.
  • Floss your teeth gently every day. If your gums bleed and hurt, avoid the areas that are bleeding or sore, but keep flossing your other teeth.
  • Rinse your mouth several times a day with a solution of 1/4 teaspoon each of baking soda and salt in one quart of warm water. Follow with a plain water rinse.
  • Take small bites of food, chew slowly, and sip liquids with your meals.
  • If you have trouble swallowing, soften your food with gravy, sauces, broth, yogurt, or other liquids.