How to handle Chemo Dry Mouth: Expert Tips for Relief and Prevention

Dry mouth, medically known as xerostomia, often occurs due to damage from chemotherapy or radiotherapy. This impairs the salivary glands' ability to produce sufficient saliva to keep the mouth moist. Throughout this step-by-step guide, we'll cover everything from dry mouth symptoms and how long it lasts, to tips on managing the symptoms and what to avoid.

Dry Mouth Side Effects: How Long Do They Last?

  1. During Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy thickens saliva, resulting in temporary dry mouth that typically resolves within 2 to 8 weeks after treatment.

  2. During Radiotherapy: Radiation therapy to the face, neck, or head can lead to dry mouth persisting for up to six months post-treatment. Extended dry mouth may occur, especially if radiation targets the salivary glands directly.

Symptoms of Dry Mouth:

  • Sticky, dry mouth sensation

  • Thick, stringy saliva

  • Pain or burning in the mouth or tongue

  • Cracks in the lips or mouth corners

  • Dry, tough tongue

  • Difficulty chewing, tasting, swallowing, and speaking

Importance of Saliva: Saliva plays a crucial role in chewing, swallowing, tasting, and talking, while also maintaining oral bacterial balance to prevent infections.

Remedies for Dry Mouth

  1. Hydration: Drink water and sugarless beverages; suck on ice chips or sugar-free gum with xylitol.

  2. Avoidance: Stay clear of drying agents like soda, fruit juice, tobacco, and alcohol.

  3. Oral Care: Use fluoride rinses and gels during radiation therapy; avoid alcohol-based dental products.

  4. Humidification: Utilise cool mist humidifiers, especially during sleep and in dry environments.

  5. Dietary Considerations: Opt for soft, moist foods like sandwiches, yogurt, and pasta with sauces to ease discomfort while eating.

  6. Homemade Mouthwash Recipe: Rinse with a mixture of warm water, salt, and baking soda after meals to soothe dry mouth symptoms.

Avoidance List for Dry Mouth

  • Dry, coarse, or hard foods

  • Spicy or acidic foods

  • Sugary, caffeine-infused, or alcoholic beverages

Managing dry mouth during cancer treatment is crucial for maintaining comfort and oral health. Follow these remedies and precautions to alleviate symptoms and enhance overall well-being.

For more oral care tips during cancer treatment, explore our comprehensive guide on 'Oral Care for Cancer Treatment' 

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