Dental Care Tips

Helpful Hints for Managing Specific Problems

  • Sore mouth or throat Keep your mouth clean. Rinse often with 1⁄4 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/8 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of warm water and then rinse with plain water. Ask your doctor or nurse about medicines to help with the pain.
  • Dry Mouth Rinse your mouth often with water, use sugar-free gum or candy, and talk to your dentist about saliva substitutes. (see “Dry Mouth Product Information” in the Treatments section.)
  • Eating Problems Your doctor /nurse can help by giving you medicines to numb the pain of mouth sores. Choose foods that are easy to chew and swallow. Mix foods with liquids to soften them and sip liquids with your meal.
  • Bleeding If your gums bleed or hurt, avoid flossing the areas that are bleeding or sore, but keep flossing your other teeth. Use a soft toothbrush and soften the bristles in warm water before brushing.
  • Jaw stiffness Open and close your mouth as far as your can without pain. Repeat 20 times, three times a day. (see Orophysiotherapy Stretching Exercises” in the Treatments section)
  • Vomiting Rinse your mouth after vomiting with 1⁄4 teaspoon of baking soda mixed into 1 cup of warm water.
  • Cavities To prevent cavities, brush your teeth after meals and before you go to bed. Use the fluoride delivery recommended by your dentist. We recommend Prevident 5000 Plus toothpaste, available by prescription.

Prevent Problems

  • Brush your teeth and tongue after you eat and before you go to bed using an extra-soft toothbrush. Soften bristles in warm water if your mouth is very sore.
  • Floss (very gently) every day to remove the cavity-causing plaque from your teeth. Avoid areas that are bleeding or very sore.
  • Keep your mouth moist by rinsing often with plain water and/or alcohol- free mouthwashes. If necessary, use a saliva substitute.
  • Rinse your mouth several times a day with a mix of 1 cup water, 1⁄4 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Do not swallow any of this mixture – spit it out after you have rinsed your mouth with it. Then rinse your mouth with plain water.
  • Have your dentures checked to be sure you have a good fit. Poor fitting dentures can cause problems.
  • Avoid sharp, crunchy foods, like chips, which could scrape or cut your mouth.
  • Avoid hot, spicy, and acidic foods (like orange juice) that can irritate your mouth.
  • Avoid sugary foods, like candy and soda, which can cause cavities.
  • Avoid toothpicks, any kind of tobacco product, and alcohol.

Lip Care

  • Lip status affects nutrition.
  • Moisturize for comfort, especially if you have a fever or are a mouth-breather.
  • Use a lip moisturizer that is water or lanolin-based.
  • Lansinoh is an edible non-toxic lanolin product that is available without a prescription.

Nutrition Tips

Good nutrition is essential to maintain health and promote healing. The foods you eat contain the nutrients your body needs to carry out its vital functions, build new tissue, repair damaged tissue, and fight infection. Cancer treatment can cause malnutrition and/or dehydration as a result of:

  • vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite
  • loss or alteration of taste
  • pain from sores or ulcerations
  • infection
  • mechanical problems with chewing or swallowing

To maintain good nutrition during your cancer care:

  • eat small, frequent meals in order to maintain your caloric intake
  • choose foods dense in calories and protein
  • increase your water intake
  • combine proteins with carbohydrates
  • unless you are on a restricted diet, increase the flavoring of your foods to make them more appetizing, particularly if your sense of smell has been impaired

Managing Vomiting

  • Ask your doctor for prescription medications to reduce vomiting.
  • Remove dentures during vomiting to decrease gag reflex.
  • Sugar-free hard candies can help reduce anticipated nausea and help stimulate saliva production if you are experiencing dry mouth (xerostomia).
  • After vomiting, rinse your mouth with water, spit out the water, and then swallow a few sips of cool water to clear your mouth of stomach acids, which can irritate the lining of your mouth and esophagus.

Recommended Foods

  • Eat soft, cool or frozen foods – yogurt, milkshakes, or ice pops.
  • Eat soft foods that are easy to swallow – soft fruits, fruit nectars, cottage cheese, mashed potatoes, macaroni & cheese, etc.
  • Puree foods before eating.
  • Use more butter, sauces and gravies in food.
  • Use cream sauces, rather than tomato sauces.
  • Add liquids to foods to thin them before eating.
  • Use liquid meal replacements that are high in protein and calories, have extra vitamins and minerals and contain little or no lactose.

Foods to Avoid

  • Cinnamon
  • Abrasive foods – granola, toast, crackers, taco chips, popcorn, nuts
  • Acidic foods – citrus fruits, tomato sauces/juices
  • Spicy, salty, overly sweet foods
  • Foods that require excess chewing – gum and raw vegetables
  • Liquids that contain alcohol
  • Very hot or very cold foods or beverages and chewing on ice
  • Foods and beverages with sucrose

Products to Avoid

  • Tobacco products
  • Mouth rinses that contain alcohol