How to Cope with Dry Mouth

What is dry mouth?

In the event that the salivary glands of the body are damaged by chemotherapy or radiotherapy, xerostomia occurs. This is caused by the salivary glands not producing enough saliva to keep the mouth moist.

How long does dry mouth last?

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.

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 of dry mouth

  • 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? 

Chewing, swallowing, tasting, and talking require saliva, and their absence can make life more uncomfortable. A healthy balance of bacteria in the mouth is also maintained by saliva. It is possible to keep infections at bay by learning the symptoms and reducing them. Without enough saliva, bacteria and other organisms in the mouth grow too fast, resulting in too many infections.

 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 eatingDrink 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 to manage chemo mouth

    Keeping your mouth moist is the key to eating with a dry mouth. This is because if your mouth is dry, it can become uncomfortable to eat. For this reason, try sandwiches, french toast, or crackers dipped in soup, yogurt, pudding, or pasta with lots of sauce. Cool or room-temperature foods can also help.

    Using homemade mouthwash as a remedy for dry mouth

    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 for dry mouth

    • 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' 

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