Using the Team Approach

Today, many different kinds of health care providers come together as a team to care for people with cancer. If you experience mouth sores, your oncologist and nurse are excellent resources to help prevent and manage this side effect as well as other concerns you may have. There are also other important members of the team with whom you can consult as well, including your dentist, registered dietitian, and an oncology social worker.

Caring for Your Teeth and Gums

The best time to start managing mouth sores and caring for your mouth is before cancer treatment begins. Your dentist should perform a careful examination to make sure there are no broken teeth, cavities, or gum irritation. If you wear dentures, the dentist should check to make sure they fit well.

Here are some ways you can care for your mouth before, during, and after treatment:

Visit your dentist before treatment. As noted above, the dentist can make sure that your mouth is as healthy as possible before you begin treatment, and can provide important information to the rest of your health care team.

Keep your mouth clean with careful brushing. Use the softest bristle brush available or an oral sponge. Rinsing the bristles in hot water can make them even softer. If toothpaste irritates your mouth, use a mixture of half a teaspoon of salt with four cups of water.

Floss gently. There is no need to floss more than once a day during your cancer treatment. It’s OK to skip the areas that feel too tender. It is, though, important that you floss correctly so that you do not injure the gums. Talk with your dentist about the correct flossing approach as well as other ways to keep your teeth and gums clean

Gargle regularly. Use a solution made up of one quart of plain water, half a teaspoon of table salt, and half a teaspoon of baking soda.

Drink plenty of fluids. Talk with your doctor or dietitian about the types of fluids you should drink, as well as how much fluid each day you should drink..

Fight dry mouth with water or sugarless drinks. If you have dry mouth, it can make mouth sores more painful. Avoid caffeine, tobacco and alcohol, as well as spicy, peppery, or salty foods, which can make dry mouth more severe, especially if you have mouth sores.

Gargling may also help. Use a solution made up of one quart of plain water, a half teaspoon of table salt and a half teaspoon of baking soda.