Dealing with those tiny sores that cause agony!

Vector illustration of a Woman with aphthae on lip. — Stock VectorThere are prescription and over-the-counter mouth rinses that can be used to ease mouth pain during chemotherapy.  You may need to try several – what works for one might not work for you.

I had Breast Cancer, but even so found that every so often I developed mouth sores – and still do.  I got advice from nurses, doctors and friends – and what follows is what worked for me.  However, I am NOT medically qualified, so ask your medical team if what I say applies to you. 

Sadly, these sores can crop up even when treatment is over, and you can still get an outbreak.  They always seem to happen when we are least able to get help, so these home-made recipes might give you relief.

When I was in France, I was prescribed Evomucy;  it worked a treat, but when it ran out I used some of these ‘kitchen’ remedies and they worked for me.

Remember, I am NOT medically qualified, and every person is different.  So discuss this now with your medical team, so you know what you could or shouldn’t use if you have an emergency.

Try and stay hydrated as drugs can target rapidly dividing cells such as those in the mouth; when this is accompanied by dryness of the mouth due to dehydration, the problem is compounded. Your mouth collects germs, but your saliva, when it has a healthy balance of enzymes, can defend you against unfriendly bacteria and viruses. In order to keep your natural oral bacteria balanced, you may need to rinse your mouth several times a day.


If a sore breaks out, try sucking an ice cube – or even an ice lolly. It can work, it’s cheap and easy-to-hand.

Making Your Own Mouth Rinses

An old-fashioned rinse can work wonders. Some work better for some than others, so you may need to try a few to see what works best for you. When you use these mouth rinses, they should be swished around in your mouth but not swallowed. That said, there is no significant danger in swallowing the rinses containing salt, bicarbonate of soda and water, unless you have a reason you need to restrict salt in your diet.

Bicarbonate of soda is similar to baking powder and baking soda

Soda and Salt Mouth Rinse

1/4 teaspoon bicarbonat of soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup of warm water

Mix well until salt dissolves. Rinse your mouth gently, being careful not to swallow the mixture. Follow this with a plain water rinse to clean out any remaining salt or soda.

Soda Mouth Rinse: A Good Rinse before meals 

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 cup of warm water

Saltwater Mouth Rinse

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup of warm water

Mix well to dissolve the salt. This saltwater rinse is close to the natural chemistry of your own saliva. This may make mouth sores feel better. Rinse well with plain water to remove excess salt.

Salt and Soda Rinse for Gummy Mouth

Some chemotherapy drugs can increase the acidity in your mouth, leading to thick saliva that can be very annoying. This American recipe rinse works well for “gummy mouth.”

1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons baking soda
4 cups of warm water

This rinse will help to neutralize acid in your mouth, and will help dissolve or loosen thick, gummy saliva. Don’t drink it, just rinse and spit it out.

Coping with Mouth Pain and Sores

In addition to avoiding foods that can be painful, and using mouth rinses, there are several things you should be aware of when it comes to mouth care during chemotherapy.

Dental Care
If you’re going to have chemotherapy, or an infusion (e.g. for osteoporosis) be sure to have a dental exam and cleaning two weeks before your first infusion. During treatment, check in with your dentist if problems come up. Gum disease leads to a chronic inflammatory state that’s actually been linked to the development of some cancers such as pancreatic cancer. While it’s easy to put dental care on the back burner during chemotherapy, it’s important to be pro-active with your dental health. At the same time, your oncologist may recommend that you only use a soft toothbrush and avoid flossing while on chemotherapy.


When mouth sores occur, secondary fungal infections can sometimes arise. This will usually show up as a white coating over the mucous membranes in your mouth. If you develop thrush, see your oncologist immediately.

Stay Hydrated

Try to drink the recommnded amount of fluids each day. Don’t drink fluids that will dry you out-–so avoid alcohol and caffeine. Do drink soothing things like milk shakes, non-citrus sports drinks, nutritional drinks, and water. Don’t drink irritating or astringent fluids such as ginger beer or grapefruit juice.

Dry Mouth

If you’re having chronic problems with dry mouth, ask your doctor about using artificial saliva such as Caphosol solution, or pain-relief medications. Keeping your mouth healthy will reduce your risk for oral side effects during treatment. That means you will be able to eat well, stay strong, and recover from treatment more quickly.

When to Call Your Doctor

Verywell, the US medical website, gives this advice:

Mouth sores can sometimes become infected, and when your white blood cell count is low due to chemotherapy, this can be serious. Make sure to call your doctor right away if you develop a fever, if you believe you may be dehydrated, if you develop any yellow or foul drainage from your mouth, or if your mouth sores are causing problems with eating or drinking.  In UK, if it’s out-of-hours, call 111.


Share This