How to Cope with Dry Mouth

What is dry mouth?

When the body's salivary glands do not produce enough saliva, or spit, to keep the mouth moist, it is known as xerostomia. It is caused by the damage caused to the salivary glands by chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

How long does dry mouth last?

Chemotherapy 
When you undergo chemotherapy, your saliva becomes thicker, which can lead to dry mouth. Usually, this is temporary, but it can take 2 to 8 weeks for it to go away after treatment ends.

Radiotherapy 

Radiation therapy to the face, neck, or head, on the other hand, can take up to six months for the salivary glands to begin producing saliva again. This is after treatment ends. Many patients will see a change within the first year after finishing treatment. Despite this, many people continue to suffer from dry mouth for an extended period of time. Particularly if radiation therapy was administered to the salivary glands, this is likely to occur.

Symptoms to look out for

A sticky, dry feeling in the mouth
Thick, stringy saliva
Pain or a burning sensation in the mouth or on the tongue
Cracks in the lips or at the corner of the mouth
A dry, tough tongue
Difficulty chewing, tasting, or swallowing
Difficulty talking


Why do we need saliva? 

Saliva is necessary for chewing, swallowing, tasting, and talking. In the absence of saliva, these activities can be uncomfortable and difficult, making life more difficult and stressful. 

In addition, saliva is responsible for maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria in your mouth. Without enough saliva, bacteria and other organisms in the mouth grow too quickly, resulting in too many infections. Keeping infections at bay can be achieved by learning the symptoms and how to reduce them.

 Miracle cures for dry mouth

Drinking water and sugarless drinks
Sucking on ice chips or having sugar-free chewing gum with xylitol.
Avoid things that will dry out the mouth, such as soda, fruit juice, cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and alcohol. 
When radiation therapy starts, use fluoride rinses and gels. These can give you extra protection. 
Stay hydrated
Drink small sips of water when eating
Avoid any dental products with alcohol 
Use a cool mist humidifier, keep it running at night and especially in winter

 

    Stick to soft, moist food

    The key thing to keep in mind when eating with a dry mouth is to make sure the food is soft and moist. This is because it can become uncomfortable if your mouth is dry. Try sandwiches and french toast or crackers dipped in soup, yogurt, pudding, or pasta with lots of sauce. These foods should be eaten at a cooler temperature or at room temperature.

    Homemade mouthwash

    Rinse your mouth 4 to 6 times a day, especially after meals, with salt and baking soda. Add half a teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of baking soda in 1 cup of warm water. 

    Things you should avoid are:  

    Dry, coarse, or hard foods.
    Spicy or acidic foods, this can burn the mouth
    Sugary foods and drinks
    Caffeine (coffee, tea and sodas)
    Alcohol and acidic drinks

      For more tips on oral care visit - 'Oral Care for Cancer Treatment'