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Managing a dry mouth during cancer treatments

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When receiving treatment for cancer, side effects can arise including Dry Mouth. With early diagnosis and knowledge on how to manage this nagging symptom, you can reduce at least one uncomfortable effect of your treatment. Dry Mouth can occur as a direct result of chemo or head and neck radiotherapy. Caused by damage to salivary glands or exacerbated by dehydration, it’s helpful to pinpoint the cause so it can be soothed from the first day of complaint.

Developing a dry mouth

When undergoing head and neck radiation or chemotherapy, you may be more prone to developing the condition – and that’s ok if you know what to do about it. Mouth dryness can be manageable – but why does it happen?

Undergoing head and neck radiation therapy and some forms of chemo can lead to thickening or reduction in your saliva. The salivary glands can be irritated or damaged with intense treatment, which leads to a host of symptoms and oral health problems. Reduced saliva can increase your risk of mouth infections or cavities. Changes in salivary flow can also cause problems with chewing, swallowing and speaking and can even alter your sense of taste.

Head and neck cancers may make you more susceptible to Dry Mouth, given the proximity of the salivary glands to the treatment area. It’s worth noting that lifestyle factors, such as smoking, chewing tobacco or drinking alcohol, can increase your chances of mouth dryness.

Overcoming mouth dryness

When you’re suffering from cancer, and the side effects of treatment, a cotton mouth may seem like the least of your troubles. Cotton mouth is an unwanted side effect, and one that can make life feel more restrictive at a time when you’re trying to remain positive. Luckily, there are things you can do to minimize its impact. Keep healthy and hydrated by drinking plenty of non-sugary fluids throughout the course of the day. Try to be more mindful about consuming moist foods as much as possible. It’s also important to visit your dentist to check the health of your mouth and teeth throughout treatment.

Your mouth dryness can also be managed with over-the-counter oral moisturizing products. Biotène Oral Rinse, Oralbalance Gel, and Moisturizing Spray can help with symptom relief. The spray is designed for on-the-go, portable use.

Helping as a caregiver for those with Dry Mouth

Do you have a family member who is undergoing cancer treatment? It’s helpful to know how you can provide effective support.

When caring for someone experiencing this condition, it’s helpful to offer them small, soft meals with extra sauces or dressings that are not spicy. Sugar-free popsicles, ice cream or gelatin-based desserts can be soothing and can also improve their fluid intake. If they have had a dry mouth for more than three days, are unable to take medicines or swallow pills, have cracked lips or are experiencing trouble breathing, contact their healthcare professional for extra guidance.

Awareness and knowledge can go a long way towards ensuring that you and your loved ones can be supported during this challenging time.

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