One of the side effects of radiation, chemotherapy and many drug therapies is xerostomia or dry mouth. It is important to note that sometimes the dose of radiation may cause permanent damage to the salivary glands. The job of saliva is not only to keep the mouth moist for eating and swallowing but to rinse away food and bacteria. Dry mouth puts cancer patients at greater risk for dental disease and infections.
- Parotid-located on either side of the face, below and behind the ear
- Submaxillary- located inside the lower jaw
- Sublingual-located under the tongue
Per the National Cancer Institute, symptoms of dry mouth include:
- Thick, stringy saliva.
- Increased thirst.
- Changes in taste, swallowing, and speech.
- A sore or burning feeling (especially on the tongue).
- Cuts or cracks in the lips or at the corners of the mouth.
- Changes in the surface of the tongue.
- Difficulty wearing dentures.
Prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) therapies include:
- Pilocarpine (Salegen) stimulates the salivary glands to produce saliva
- Artificial Saliva( Salivart, Xerolube) provides temporary relief. Products are liquids or sprays
- Toothpastes (Biotene Antibacterial Dry Mouth Toothpaste)
- Gum (Biotene Dry Mouth Gum)
- Avoid alcohol which is a drying agent
- Avoid lemon or glycerin oral swabs which are drying
- Use lip balms to avoid cracked lips
- Keep your mouth moist with water, ice, frozen pops
- Use a humidifier
- Rinse your mouth frequently
- Breathe through your nose
- Suck on sugarless candy or lozenges
- Avoid smoking and tobacco products
- Maintain a regime of regular good and gentle oral care
- Avoid hot foods or beverages. Serve warm.
- Avoid dry foods instead opting for moist food
- Increase your amount of high nourishment beverages such as protein shakes
- Increase your intake of non caffeine beverages to thin saliva and keep your mouth clean