One of the most unexpected and frustrating side effects of cancer treatment is mouth soreness and irritation. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may cause changes in the lining of the mouth and the salivary glands. This upsets the healthy balance of bacteria. These changes may lead to painful mouth sores that make eating and drinking difficult, longer-term infections, and tooth decay.
It is important that you don’t “chase” mouth issues - once mouth issues start, they can be difficult to control and heal. Instead, focus on preventing them from happening as best you can with a daily protocol. Being able to eat nutrient rich foods and drink plenty of water are incredibly important for your recovery – so keep your mouth happy and functioning!
Here are some daily tips to help keep your mouth balanced during cancer treatment:
- Start your oral care protocol before or as you start treatment to get into the habit. You may not have any mouth issues yet – but starting early will keep it that way. A sore mouth caused by chemotherapy usually happens about 5 to 10 days after you start treatment – but this is if it has a chance to develop. Cut if off before issues can start!
- Swish with coconut oil every day. It’s a simple, all-natural, inexpensive hack that works incredibly well. Coconut oil pulls bacteria from your mouth, cleans, soothes, and protects. Every morning, spoon a tablespoon of coconut oil into your mouth and swish. It will loosen and turn to a liquid. Aim to swish for 10 minutes each time. Yes it’s a but cumbersome, but this will save you a world of irritation. When you’re done spit it into the trashcan (oil can plug drains!). Do this two times a day if you can, or when you feel mouth sores coming up – even more often. You won’t regret it! We put CocoPull travel pouches that we put in our Cancer Kits. You can also get a jar or organic unfiltered coconut oil at any grocery store. Bonus: it’s an all-natural teeth whitener.
- Use a tongue scraper. Since cancer treatment creates imbalances of bacteria in the mouth, you’ll want to remove some of the growth. A tongue scraper is a simple way to do this – removing bacteria from a large portion of the moth – the tongue. We love GRIN products as they are all natural and sustainable.
- Be diligent about brushing and flossing. Your mouth needs a lot of TLC during cancer treatment. Be sure you’re brushing and flossing twice a day. We love GRIN floss tape, and some of our favorite all natural toothpastes are Truvani and Dr. Bronner’s.
- Apply lots of lip care. Your lips may become dry and cracked. Make sure you have plenty of lip balm and heavier ointment on hand.
- Swish with a dry mouth rinse. Rinse with a mouthwash made for dry mouth issues. Biotene is one that works well.
- Up the dental cleanings. During and after cancer treatments, many are recommended to go in for a deep cleaning every 3 months versus every 6 months. Make your visits to the dentist more frequent to remove any deep plaque and bacteria and keep your mouth healthy.
- Drink water. Drinking plenty of water is necessary for processing toxins and overall health, but also keeps your mouth balanced. Aim to drink 100oz of filtered water every day.
More evidence is linking mouth health to cardiovascular, mental decline, and overall health. Cancer treatment can make taking care of your oral health a bit more challenging, but it’s critical for your ability to consume nutrients and to maintain overall wellness.