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What Are Some Good Mouth Rinses During Chemotherapy?

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Updated January 12, 2013

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Question: What Are Some Good Mouth Rinses During Chemotherapy?
Mouth rinses can really help with oral side effects of chemotherapy. They're easy to make and use, and can prevent health problems. Chemotherapy can cause dryness within your mouth. If you have too little saliva, gums may develop sore spots or infections, or you may have dry mouth. Your mouth can collect germs, but your saliva, when it has a healthy balance of enzymes, can defend you against unfriendly bacteria and viruses. In order to keep your natural oral bacteria balanced, you may need to rinse your mouth several times a day. Here are some simple rinses you can make and use at home.
Answer: Make Your Own Mouth Rinses

Soda and Salt Mouth Rinse
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup of warm water

Mix well until salt dissolves. Rinse your mouth gently, being careful not to swallow the mixture. Follow this with a plain water rinse to clean out any remaining salt or soda.

Soda Mouth Rinse
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup of warm water

Mix well to dissolve the baking soda. This is a good rinse to use before and after a meal because it may soothe any mucositis pain you have, making it easier for you to eat well. Swish and spit, but don't swallow this mixture.

Saltwater Mouth Rinse
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup of warm water

Mix well to dissolve the salt. This saltwater rinse is close to the natural chemistry of your own saliva. This may make mouth sores feel better. Rinse well with plain water to remove excess salt.

Salt and Soda Rinse for Gummy Mouth
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons baking soda
4 cups of warm water

This rinse will help to neutralize acid in your mouth, and will help dissolve or loosen thick, gummy saliva. Don't drink it -- just rinse and spit it out.

Peroxide Rinse for Crusted Sores
1 cup hydrogen peroxide
1 cup water or
1 cup saltwater (1 teaspoon of salt in 4 cups of water)

If you have crusty mouth sores, try using this rinse three or four times a day for two days. Don't use it for more than two days at a time, because it will prevent mucositis from healing. Use a non-peroxide rinse for two days, before returning to this mixture.

Getting Professional Help
If you're going to have chemotherapy, be sure to have a dental exam and cleaning two weeks before your first infusion. During treatment, check in with your dentist if problems come up. For pain and sores that won't go away, your dentist can prescribe an antibacterial rinse or an analgesic rinse to relieve pain.

Simple Do's and Don'ts
Do drink at least 64 ounces of fluids each day. Don't drink fluids that will dry you out -– so avoid alcohol and caffeine. Do drink soothing things like milk shakes, non-citrus sports drinks, nutritional drinks, and water. Don't drink irritating or astringent fluids such as ginger beer or grapefruit juice. If you're having chronic problems with dry mouth, ask your doctor about using artificial saliva, such as Caphosol solution, or pain-relief medications. Keeping your mouth healthy will reduce your risk for oral side effects during treatment. That means you will be able to eat well, stay strong, and recover from treatment more quickly.

Sources:

Chemotherapy and Your Mouth. Pamphlet, PDF format. National Institutes of Health. Reprinted July 2008.

Management of Oral Complications During and After Chemotherapy and/or Radiation Therapy. National Cancer Institute. Last Modified: 11/06/2008.

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