A dry mouth can be a disturbing side effect of cancer treatment. The drugs and radiation used to treat the disease can also damage healthy cells in the mouth. They stimulate the salivary glands in the mouth and reduce the saliva of the glands. Your saliva may also become sticky or thick. This may cause your mouth to feel dry or cracked.
If you have a dry mouth, it may make you more susceptible to infection. It can also cause poor oral hygiene and make it more difficult for you to eat, speak or swallow. Try the following strategies to relieve dry mouth during cancer treatment:
Make sure to drink 8 to 10 glasses of liquids every day. Always carry water with you and drink it frequently throughout the day. Drinking plenty of water can help in thinning the mucus and keeping the mouth moist. But caffeine beverages, such as coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks, should be avoided because caffeine is dehydrating. Also, avoid acidic drinks and alcohol as they actually make dry mouth worse.
Consider your diet.
Certain foods can help in keeping the mouth moist. Others make dry mouth worse. Soft, moist food can help relieve the discomfort of dry mouth.
Foods to include:
- Casseroles, soups, and stews
- Caffeine-free lemon tea
- Diluted fruit juices and sports drinks
- Ice cream, pudding, and gelatin
- Popsicles and slush
- Hard-boiled or scrambled eggs
- Soft boiled poultry and fish in sauce or gravy
- Soft or pureed fruits, such as applesauce and peaches
- Sugar-free candies and chewing gum
Foods to avoid :
- Coarse and dry foods, such as raw vegetables
- Dried meat, poultry, and fish, without seasoning
- Dry biscuits, cakes, and bread
- Irritating or acidic foods, including spicy foods, tomatoes, and citrus fruits
- Peanut butter or other sticky foods that may stick to your tongue or mouth
- Sharp, fragile foods, such as tacos, pretzels, dry cereals, and granola, may scratch or cut your mouth
Change eating habits.
In addition to changing your diet, you may also need to change your eating habits. For example, bite smaller. Also, spend some time chewing food well. Always use cold or room temperature food. Hot food may irritate your mouth. You can also soften dry food by adding broth, sauce, gravy, or yogurt. Smoking sugar-free candies or chewing sugar-free gum during the day may also help. This stimulates saliva production and helps keep the mouth moist.
Focus on Oral hygiene.
A dry mouth may increase the risk of tooth decay and infection in the mouth. Smoking, chewing tobacco, or drinking alcohol can make these problems and dry mouth worse. However, maintaining good oral hygiene may help. Brush your teeth and gums after each meal. Be sure to use a toothbrush with super soft bristles. Keep it clean and store it in a dry place. Avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol. If you are not at home and cannot brush your teeth after eating then rinse your mouth with plain water. Try to rinse with warm salt water several times a day.
Discuss medications or supplements with your doctor.
Saliva substitutes can help relieve dry mouth. These products behave like natural saliva, but they do not promote the production of saliva. They help replenish lost saliva and keep the mouth moist. Saliva substitutes include sprays, gels, and lozenges. There are also medicines that can help your salivary glands produce more saliva. Ask your doctor if these treatments are right for you or not.