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Whilst you are unwell, you are more likely than usual to suffer from problems with your mouth. This page is designed to advise you on things you can do to prevent these problems and what you can do to help if they do occur.
Please note: You can also download a copy of this information leaflet at the bottom of this page or view our full list of information leaflets.
Whilst you are unwell, you are more likely than usual to suffer from problems with your mouth. This leaflet is designed to advise you on things you can do to prevent these problems and what you can do to help if they do occur.
It is recommended that you brush your teeth twice a day, using a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. After this you should rinse with water or mouthwash. It is also important to rinse your mouth after meals and last thing at night, with either warm water or saline solution. Always check your mouth every day, removing dentures if worn and checking gums and tongue. Any problems or changes should be reported to your doctor or nurse. Ensure that you drink plenty of fluid each day. If you have lost weight and have dentures that no longer fit properly, it is advisable to ask your dentist to adjust them. Dentures should be removed and soaked overnight.
You may find that your taste has been altered by chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Hopefully, this is only a temporary problem, normally lasting for a few months. During this time you may find it helpful to season food with herbs or spices to increase flavour.
Vaseline or lip balm can be applied to lips before and after eating.
A dry mouth may be helped by having cold unsweetened drinks, frequently sipping fluid or sucking on ice cubes, or frozen fruit juices. Chewing sugar free gum, boiled sweets, mints, pastilles or pineapple chunks may increase the production of saliva. Your doctor can prescribe artificial saliva, which some people find helpful. A flavourless salad oil can be used to lubricate the mouth.
Reducing the pain before eating may help. Soluble Paracetamol may be taken half an hour before meals (no more than 4 doses in 24 hours) or Difflam mouthwash may be used half an hour before meals. If neither of these is effective, your doctor can prescribe a local anaesthetic spray or lozenge for use before meals.
If you have a coated tongue, please ask your doctor or nurse to check in case you have an infection which needs to be treated. The tongue may be cleaned by brushing with a soft baby toothbrush and using an antiseptic mouthwash such as chlorhexidine. Pineapple chunks may help to clean the tongue but may not be useful if the mouth is painful. Allowing a quarter of an effervescent vitamin C tablet to dissolve on the tongue may also help to clean it.
Thrush (a fungal infection) in the mouth is a common problem, which causes white spots in the mouth and discomfort. Anti-thrush treatment comes as a yellow liquid (Nystatin) or a tablet (Fluconazole), which will be prescribed by your doctor. Dentures should be removed before taking Nystatin, then cleaned and replaced.
Palliative Care – Oral Problems Clinical Knowledge Summary 2012