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Information Leaflets

Mouth care

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.

Looking after your mouth

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.

Care of your mouth

It is recommended that you brush your teeth twice a day,  whether you have dentures or your own teeth. If you become fatigued easily, it is suggested you clean your teeth before other personal care. Keeping your mouth clean and moist is essential for speaking, eating, drinking and for your wellbeing.

Own teeth

If you have your own teeth you can clean them using either an electric toothbrush or a soft/small headed manual toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. After you have cleaned them with toothpaste you should NOT rinse your mouth but just spit out. You should not use a mouthwash at the same time you have cleaned your teeth with toothpaste, because the toothpaste should stay on your teeth to help protect them. If you are Nil by mouth or are unable to swallow you can use a foam free toothpaste (such as: Sensodyne Pronamel), which should be used without water. A pea size amount of toothpaste is all that is needed to clean your teeth.


When cleaning dentures it is recommended that you use a fragrance-free soap or denture cream to clean them and a brush. This is because normal toothpaste can scratch the surface of the denture which can then become a breeding ground for bacteria.

Taste disturbances

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.

Dry cracked lips

Lip balm can be applied to lips before and after eating. It is recommended to use a water-based product such as a saliva replacement gel or oralieve lip balm. (Contact St Barnabas IPU or Hospice at Home department regarding this product). Oil based products such as petroleum jelly or yellow paraffin (Vaseline) act as a barrier and do not absorb into the lips so should NOT be used. Oil based products should also NOT be used when a patient is using oxygen therapy. Cracks at the angles of the mouth can also cause dry lips and you may also experience a burning sensation (on touch). This is where small, reddened, sore cracks at the angles of the mouth appear and either do not heal or continually recur. This could be a fungal or bacterial infection and would require treatment. (Please speak to your nurse or GP regarding this). This is often found in older people or those who wear dentures.

Dry mouth

If you have a dry mouth AVOID using acidic products or foods i.e.: pineapple, cucumber, Glandosane, as a dry mouth is acidic and these products will just exacerbate the dryness.

To help your mouth feel less dry you may wish to try frequent sips of water (unless nil by mouth) or unsweetened drinks or using a small spray bottle filled with tap water to spray into the mouth or sucking small ice chips or chewing sugar free gum (Low tack i.e.: Orbit for people with dentures), any of these may help increase the production of saliva.

If you are unable to swallow you can try moisturising dry mouth gel onto the tongue, cheeks and palate. (Obtained via your GP).

Sore mouth and ulcer care

If you have had had an ulcer present for more than 2 weeks please contact your GP. However, if it has been present for less than 2 weeks you can try rinsing your mouth with saline or using an anti-inflammatory mouth spray/rinse which your GP can prescribe such as Difflam. This is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine which works by stopping the pain and swelling (inflammation). Avoid acidic products. If you are experiencing severe pain please contact your GP.

Coated tongue

If you have a coated tongue i.e. white, yellow, or black please ask your nurse or GP to check this in case you have an infection which needs treating.

Oral thrush

Oral thrush which is 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 which is called Nystatin, or a capsule or white liquid called Fluconazole or a gel called Miconazole gel, all of which can be prescribed by your GP. (Both Nystatin and Fluconazole have an aniseed taste).

If you are diagnosed with oral thrush and have your own teeth you will need to soak your toothbrush twice daily morning and night for 15 minutes in chlorhexidine (0.2%). This is to prevent your mouth from becoming infected again or you can use a new toothbrush.

If you have dentures it is advisable to clean the denture with denture cream or fragrance-free soap and water, rinse with tap water, then soak the denture and toothbrush in chlorhexidine liquid (0.2%) mouthwash for 15 minutes twice per day, morning and evening. It is advisable to leave the denture out whilst the mouth heals or at least at night.

Finally, if you are unsure or do not understand any of the above please don’t hesitate to contact your nurse or GP.

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