Managing Dry Mouth
Many cancer patients experience dry mouth (xerostomia) as a side effect of treatment.1,2,3 For some, the dryness may be mild and can be relieved with a drink of water. For others, the dryness may be more severe and cause difficulty while eating and talking. A dry mouth can feel uncomfortable.1,3,4
A dry mouth increases the chances of your developing dental cavities.1,2 If you smoke or chew tobacco, or drink alcoholic beverages, the dryness will be worse.3
Tips for Prevention
You may not be able to prevent dry mouth completely. But you may be able to lessen the effects if you:
Follow the mouth-care guidelines below1
When eating, take small bites of food and chew well4
Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless candy to stimulate saliva2,4
Avoid use of mouth irritants such as tobacco and alcohol1
Visit your dentist regularly1
Use medication if prescribed for you to help increase the saliva in your mouth3
Ways to Manage Dry Mouth
Depending on your situation, good oral hygiene, care in selecting the foods that you eat, and seeing your dentist on a regular basis will help you deal with dry mouth.1,3
Mouth care: Brush your teeth gently at least twice a day and pay special attention to the gum line. Floss at least once a day.3 During the day, rinse your mouth with a cup of salt water (1/4 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of water) before and after meals.4
Diet: Eat soft, moist foods such as canned fruits, foods with sauces and gravies, and stewed foods. Avoid hard, dry, and sticky foods such as crackers, chips, and cookies. Avoid spicy or acidic foods such as citrus fruits and juices. Drink liquids such as water and nonacidic juices with your meals. Keep a glass of water at your bedside to sip on during the night. Avoid alcoholic beverages because these can increase your mouth dryness. Avoid tobacco products.4
Saliva substitutes and other lubricants: Many different products are available. Talk with your dentist for suggestions.4
1 “Dealing with Dry Mouth.” Journal of the American Dental Association. May 2005, vol. 136, pp. 703.
2 “Dry Mouth.” American Dental Association. www.ada.org/3014.aspx?currentTab=1 Accessed 2010.
3 “Dry Mouth.” NationalInstitute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, September 3, 2010. www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/DryMouth/DryMouth.htm Accessed 2010.
4 “Mouth Dryness.” American Cancer Society. www.cancer.org/Treatment/TreatmentsandSideEffects/PhysicalSideEffects/DealingwithSymptomsatHome/caring-for-the-patient-with-cancer-at-home-mouth-drynessAccessed 2010.