‘Be proud of your mouth' is the message around World Oral Health Day today, 20 March 2022.
Having a sore mouth can affect your wellbeing, and is a common side effect of treatment for lymphoma. As well as destroying lymphoma cells, chemotherapy and radiotherapy also damage the healthy cells in the mucous membrane. Some targeted therapies also cause sore mouth, although it is unclear how they do so.
A sore mouth can also happen after a stem cell transplant. This can be caused by both the high-dose chemotherapy and immunosuppressive drugs given as part of the transplant. The risk of sore mouth increases if you have both radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
A sore mouth usually gets better once you finish your treatment for lymphoma and your blood counts return to the levels they were at before you had treatment. Usually, this is about 2 to 3 weeks after chemotherapy, and 6 to 8 weeks after radiotherapy, although for some people, sore mouth lasts longer.
There are some simple steps you can take to help improve symptoms of sore mouth. Below are some general suggestions, but speak to your medical team for advice on how best to manage your specific symptoms.
If you have sore mouth, it is important to take steps to prevent infection:
- Visit your dentist before you start treatment for lymphoma – you may not be able to have any dental work done during or soon after treatment because of increased risk of infection.
- Rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash after eating. Keeping your mouth clean reduces your risk of getting infections. Avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol as these can cause further irritation. You could try a mouth rinse made using a pint of cooled boiled water mixed with a teaspoon of salt. If your mouth is painful, your medical team might prescribe a specific mouthwash, for example, one containing anaesthetic.
- Clean your teeth twice a day using a soft-bristled brush. You could try using children’s toothpaste, which is milder than regular toothpaste.
Flossing can damage an already sensitive mucous membrane, allowing harmful bacteria into the bloodstream. If you regularly floss, take care to do it gently if you continue to do it during your lymphoma treatment. If you do not floss regularly already, it is not recommended that you begin while you are having treatment for lymphoma.
To find out more about sore mouth; what causes it and how to manage it, check our our web page.
Published: 20 March 2022