- Cancer Information
- Cancer treatment
- Managing chemotherapy side effects
- Mouth sores
Some chemotherapy drugs can cause mouth sores, such as ulcers, or infections. This is more likely if you have had or are having radiation therapy to the head, neck or chest, or if you have dental or gum problems.
If you notice any sores, ulcers or thickened saliva, or if you find it difficult to swallow, tell your doctor.
Tips for mouth care
- Discuss any dental issues with your oncologist before seeing the dentist. If you need any dental work, tell your dentist you’re having chemotherapy.
- Use a soft toothbrush to clean your teeth twice a day.
- Rinse your mouth four times a day with 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda or salt in a glass of warm water. Avoid mouthwashes containing alcohol.
- Try to prevent mouth ulcers by sucking on ice during chemotherapy sessions.
- Sip fluids, especially water, and eat moist foods such as casseroles or soups if you have a dry mouth. Moisten foods with gravy or sauce.
- Soothe tender gums or mouth with plain yoghurt.
- Blend foods to make them easier to eat. Try smoothies made of fruit and yoghurt.
- Avoid smoking and alcoholic drinks, as well as very hot foods and spicy, acidic or coarse foods (e.g. nuts or grains). These can all aggravate mouth sores.
- For more on this, see Mouth Health and Cancer Treatment, or call 13 11 20.
Dr Prunella Blinman, Medical Oncologist, Concord Cancer Centre, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, and Clinical Senior Lecturer, Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, NSW; Gillian Blanchard, Oncology Nurse Practitioner, Calvary Mater Newcastle, and Conjoint Lecturer, School of Nursing and Midwifery, The University of Newcastle, NSW; Julie Bolton, Consumer; Keely Gordon-King, Psychologist, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; John Jameson, Consumer; Dr Zarnie Lwin, Medical Oncologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, and Senior Lecturer, School of Medicine, The University of Queensland, QLD; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Dr Felicia Roncolato, Medical Oncology Staff Specialist, Macarthur Cancer Therapy Centre, NSW. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
The information on this page is also available for download.
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