Dry mouth

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A dry mouth can be a distressing side effect of cancer treatments and if prolonged can lead to pain and soreness. A dry mouth can lead to secondary infection and bleeding. Lack of saliva then causes difficulty swallowing as it is hard to chew food and form a bolus. A dry mouth also causes problems with speech as the tongue tends to stick to the side or roof of the mouth. This page describes the common causes of a dry mouth during or after cancer treatments and suggests some practical tips which may help.

Common causes of a dry mouth:

Tips for a dry mouth


Good mouth care when you have a dry mouth can help to keep the mouth clean, moist and comfortable. It is especially important to take good care of your mouth while you are receiving treatment: Careful attention to mouth care will help reduce the risks of infection and the following instructions are designed to help you keep your mouth clean and comfortable. If a dry mouth becomes inflamed this is called oral mucositis often can be painful, and this in turn can make it difficult to eat and drink.  

Clean teeth thoroughly but gently after each meal and before going to bed. If the gums are delicate it is better to use a soft toothbrush (baby/infant).

Brand name antibacterial mouthwashes such as Corsodyl may be used but are quite strong and may damage the fragile lining of your mouth whilst on treatment. Check with nursing staff for further advice.

Saline mouthwashes are recommended if tolerable; 5 mls salt: 500 mls tepid water; (1 tsp. salt: one pint tepid water). If you are suffering from a mark dry mouth, this supervising doctor needs to be told, otherwise, the following suggestions may help:


It may be necessary to change the diet to foods which are soft and moist. Also if there are signs of secondary infection further treatment may be needed.


Signs of infection in the mouth:thrust candida mouth infection


mouth ulcers painful mouth soreTreating a painful mouth


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