Sore Mouth, Gums and Throat
mouth, gums and throat is commonly experienced by cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy; it is a frequent
chemotherapy side effect. The reason is because chemo drugs tend to interfere with the cells of the body that
divide and reproduce themselves, including cells of the oral cavity. When the healthy cells in the lining of the
mouth are damaged and unable to reproduce, the body reacts by producing a number of side effects, which severity
varies from patient to another. The good news is that these sores
may clear up by themselves in a few days.
The mouth and throat (including other organs
of the digestive tract) are composed of a tissue (a group cells) called mucosa. They protect the digestive tract.
But they are sensitive to chemotherapy however. Thus, once the chemo drugs start attacking cancer cells, cancer
patients may experience mouth problems, which may include dry mouth, ulcers and dental problems. In some patients,
the treatment can inflame the buccal mucosa (protective lining of the mouth), a condition called stomatitis or mucositis. Mucositis is
characterized by redness, inflammation, sores (ulcerations) as well as discomfort and pain. The medications can also lead to esophagitis, inflammation of
It is important to note that these mouth
problems are not always the result of chemotherapy drugs; they can be due to other medications or the cancer
itself. In fact, most patients complain of burning sensation and ulcers in the mouth 3 to 10 days following
chemotherapy due to low white blood cell count. Treatment may require supportive care until the cells regenerate
themselves, which takes about 7 to 14 days. A healthy diet is the key to increase the white blood cell count, and
thus minimize these effects.
What You Can Do?
treatment, it is extremely important to keep the mouth clean and free from the oral foci of infection and pain
to minimize local infection and bacteremia. All cancer patients need to adopt a good oral hygiene program:
dental cleaning and scaling, daily brushing and careful flossing to reduce plaque and other oral problems
including tooth decay and bad breath. Cancer patients should brush their teeth 3 to 4 times a day or after each
meal with a soft toothbrush and use floss with care to prevent cut or injure to the gums.
recommended for scaling, cleaning, tooth extractions or repair of cavities to be done before the chemotherapy
begin. Because chemotherapy agents reduce the property of the body to heal, to prevent risk of infection and/or
ulcers, any tooth extraction should be done at least two weeks before the chemo therapy. It is also recommended for patients to rinse their mouths frequently with salt
water, baking soda or chlorhexidine (Peridex® or Periogard®) during and after chemotherapy. Flossing and use of
electric toothbrushes and Waterpic® should be avoided in case the gums are swollen, sore or tend to
you can take the following daily steps to help your mouth stay healthy:
First of all, let your doctor know
if you have ulcers so that you may be prescribed medications to help heal the ulcers and prevent
Keep your toothbrush in a toothbrush
case, and replace it frequently to prevent infection
Clean your teeth or dentures gently
every morning and evening or after each meal
a soft-bristle toothbrush to brush your; you may soften it more by soaking it in warm water if you have
mouth sores. Use non-irritating toothpaste that contains natural salivary enzymes that help control
on the sores, the brushing may be painful, in this case, use either a cotton swab or
can dip a Q-tip in 3% hydrogen peroxide followed by a warm water rinse to get rid of debris from around
the teeth, and increase oxygen level in your mouth.
Avoid acidic drinks, such as orange
and grapefruit juice
mouthwashes alcohol that can irritate your mouth and/or worsen the sores
If you have vomited, rinse out your
mouth before cleaning your teeth as the acid in the vomit may damage your teeth
Keep your lips moist by using
Vaseline® or a lip balm
Keep your mouth by drinking plenty
Avoid irritating foods: hot spices,
garlic, onion, vinegar and salty foods
Avoid tobacco and all alcohol
beverage that can irritate your mouth
If you have sores in your mouth
and/or throat, add gravies and sauces to your food to help swallowing.
What You Can
Do If You Have Sores and/or
During chemotherapy, the mucositis is usually caused by low white blood cell count, cells of the immune system involved in
defending the body. When this occurs, the immune system becomes weak, putting you at increased risk
of infectionand other serious medical conditions. For patients who also
receive radiotherapy to the head and
neck, the radiation can also cause sores in the mouth, gums and throat due to the necrotic and inflammatory effect
of radiation energy on oral mucosa.
infections during cancer treatment can be dangerous. Examine your mouth regularly searching for abnormal
appearances or feelings. If the soreness or abnormalities are found in your mouth, and they are severe, it is
important to have a complete mouth evaluation by a professional. Therefore, report any oral change to your
dentist. All infection should be diagnosed and treated promptly to prevent complications. The diagnosis can be
made based on clinical characteristics, or using medical tests: smear or cultures for instance.
the healing process of your mouth, you can:
Apply black seed oil on the affected
Apply Vitamin E on the
Ulcerase® (and others) to irritated areas in mouth or on lips.