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Dry Mouth in Cancer Patients

Updated at: Jan 13, 2013
Written by: Editorial TeamPublished at: Jan 13, 2013
Dry Mouth in Cancer Patients

What it is ?

Dry mouth occurs when you have less saliva than you used to. This can make it harder to talk, chew, and swallow food. Dry mouth can also change the way food tastes.

Why it happens ?

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy to the head or neck area can damage the glands that make saliva. Biological therapy and some medicines can also cause dry mouth.

Ways to manage with food

    * Sip water throughout the day. This can help moisten your mouth, which can help you swallow and talk. Many people carry water bottles with them.
    * Have very sweet or tart foods and drinks (such as lemonade). These help you make more saliva. But do not eat or drink anything sweet or tart if you have a sore mouth or sore throat. It might make these problems worse.
    * Chew gum or suck on hard candy, popsicles, and ice chips. These help make saliva, which moistens your mouth. Choose sugar-free gum or candy since too much sugar can cause cavities in your teeth. If you also have diarrhea, check with your dietitian before using sugar-free products as some sweeteners can make it worse.
    * Eat foods that are easy to swallow. Try pureed cooked foods or soups. See the list of foods and drinks that are easy to chew and swallow.
    * Moisten food with sauce, gravy, or salad dressing. This helps make food easy to swallow.
    * Do not drink beer, wine, or any type of alcohol. These can make your mouth even drier.
    * Avoid foods that can hurt your mouth. This includes foods that are very spicy, sour, salty, hard, or crunchy.

Other ways to manage

  1. Talk with a dietitian. He or she can discuss ways to eat even when a dry mouth makes it hard for you to chew.
  2. Keep your lips moist with lip balm.
  3. Rinse your mouth every 1 to 2 hours. Mix 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and 1/8 teaspoon salt with 1 cup warm water. Rinse with plain water after using this mixture.
  4. Do not use mouthwash that has alcohol. Alcohol makes a dry mouth worse.
  5. Do not use tobacco products, and avoid second-hand smoke. Tobacco products and smoke can hurt your mouth and throat.
  6. Talk with your doctor or dentist. Ask about artificial saliva or other products to coat, protect, and moisten your mouth and throat. These products can help with severe dry mouth.


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