Radiation therapy or chemotherapy may cause mucositis (tissue swelling) in your mouth. You may have any of these symptoms:
In patients getting chemotherapy, mucositis will heal by itself when there is no infection. Healing usually takes 2 - 4 weeks. Mucositis caused by radiation therapy usually lasts 6 - 8 weeks. It will depend on how long you have radiation treatment.
Brush your teeth and gums 2 or 3 times a day for 2 to 3 minutes each time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles.
If toothpaste makes your mouth sore, brush with a solution of 1 teaspoon of salt mixed with 4 cups of water. Pour a small amount into a clean cup to dip your toothbrush into each time you brush. Use a toothpaste with fluoride.
Floss gently 1 time a day. Rinse your mouth 5 or 6 times a day. Use any of these solutions when you rinse:
Avoid rinses that have alcohol in them. You may use an antibacterial rinse 2 - 4 times a day for gum disease. Rinse for 1 - 2 minutes each time.
Do not eat foods or drinks that have a lot of sugar in them. They may cause tooth decay. Use lip care products to keep your lips from drying out and cracking. Sip water to ease mouth dryness.
Ask your doctor about these treatments you can use in your mouth:
Your doctor may also give you pills for pain or drugs to fight infection in your mouth.
National Cancer Institute. Oral complications of chemotherapy and head/neck radiation (PDQ). September 16, 2011. Accessed May 19, 2012.
Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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