Mouth sores are ulcers that form in the soft tissue in and around your mouth including your tongue, gums, or lips. They can be caused by chemotherapy or radiation and can be mild.
If your mouth sores are severe, your doctor may recommend delaying your cancer treatment until the infection is healed. According to the Mayo Clinic, chemotherapy reduces your blood’s ability to clot and could cause mild to severe bleeding from mouth sores. Bleeding and painful sores could affect your ability to eat which causes more stress to the body. Be sure to speak with your oncologist and dentist throughout your treatment.
Why are mouth sores common for cancer patients?
Chemotherapy and radiation work to destroy rapidly growing cells throughout your body. Unfortunately some healthy cells are affected in the process – including the cells in your mouth. Also because your immune system is low, your mouth is vulnerable to infection.
What can I do for relief?
Get a dental checkup and talk to your doctor about treatment options. They may be able to recommend topical treatments
that can include coating agents which form a film to protect the sores or painkillers which can numb the sores in your mouth. Be careful when eating or brushing your teeth while taking numbing medication since you may not be able to feel if you are causing more damage. There are also over-the-counter products, such as fluoride toothpastes, that contain aloe vera and allantoin
, which claim to be naturally soothing and gentle. Talk to your dentist about using these products.
Brush Your Teeth
Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. You can soak your extra-soft toothbrush in warm water to make it softer. Don’t forget to brush your tongue!
Flossing helps remove plaque between teeth. If your gums are sore or bleeding, be gentle and avoid those areas, but floss in between the rest of your teeth.
Watch What You Eat
Stay away from crunchy or spicy foods and alcohol. Your mouth can be very fragile during treatment. Steer clear of foods that can irritate your gums or mouth sores. This includes alcohol-based mouth rinses and alcoholic drinks which can burn mouth sores.
Rinse Your Mouth Often
This will help keep food and debris off of your teeth and gums. Rinsing often, along with regular brushing and flossing, may help to reduce the chance of dental decay and infection. Rinsing is also helpful after vomiting to keep the acids from damaging the enamel on your teeth. You may also want to reduce eating citrus fruit or other high acid foods. Avoid the use of alcohol-based mouth rinses since they can be irritating to mouth sores and dry mouth.
Here are some rinsing solution ideas from NIH
o 1 teaspoon of salt in 4 cups of water
o 1 teaspoon of baking soda in 1 cup (8 ounces of water)
o One-half teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons baking soda in 4 cups of water