Xerostomia, the medical term for dry mouth, is a common side effect of head and neck radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Radiation doses of 25 Gy or greater are associated with reduced salivary flow and function. Saliva acts as a natural buffer in the oral cavity, bathing the oral tissues and teeth. Thus, reduced salivary flow can result in an increased risk for dental decay and cavities.
Tips to Combat Dry Mouth
- Dry air – Dry air only makes dry mouth worse. Pick up a humidifier — or get some plants to add moisture to the air and a little cheer.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate – Drinking fluids will help keep your mouth moist and clean. Staying hydrated will help thin the mucus and ropey saliva. Water is best, but you can also try drinking diluted juices, tea, or whatever tastes good to you.
- Soup time – Broth and thin soups are usually easy to sip and keep down. If you’ve got an appetite, try a heartier soup like carrot ginger, turkey tortellini, or goulash.
- Add a little sauce – Foods with broth, sauces, or gravy are moist, making them easier to eat.
- Moist is best – Choose meats and fish that melt in your mouth over dry, stringy meats.
- Olive oil – It sounds a little weird, but rubbing olive oil on your oral tissues may provide some relief.
- Pineapple and Papaya – Pineapple and papaya help break down mucus with an enzyme known as bromelain. Too much acid in your mouth can contribute to cavities, so you don’t want to eat too much acidic fruit like pineapple and papaya and it’s best to brush your teeth afterward. If you have mouth sores, this is not something you want to try.
- Artificial saliva – Consider salivary over the counter substitutes.
- Brush up – Maintaining excellent oral hygiene can make it easier. Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoridated tooth paste and floss daily to prevent potentially serious complications from dry mouth.