Coping with sore mouth, gums or throat
Cancer patients can suffer from sore mouth or gums and should see their doctor to be sure the soreness is a treatment side effect and not an unrelated dental problem. The doctor may be able to give you medicine that will control mouth and throat pain. Your dentist can often also give you tips for the care of your mouth. Try to arrange to see your dentist before you begin cancer treatment, or in between treatments, to take care of any work that needs to be done. Preventive dentistry is crucial before you begin chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Soreness usually resolves with time but whilst your mouth and throat is sore, certain foods will irritate an already tender mouth and make chewing and swallowing difficult. By carefully choosing the foods you eat and by taking good care of your mouth, teeth, and gums, you can usually make eating easier.
Here are some suggestions that may help you cope with your sore mouth or your sore throat.
Foods that may be easy to tolerate - Foods that may aggravate a sore mouth or throat - Food and cooking hints
Foods that may be easy to tolerate
You can try soft foods that are easy to chew and swallow, such as:
- bananas and other soft fruits
- cottage cheese, yoghurt
- mashed potatoes, noodles
- macaroni cheese
- custard, jelly
- scrambled eggs
- cooked cereals
- pureed or mashed vegetables, such as peas and carrots
- minced meats
- tinned soft fruit such as peach, pear, and apricot
Foods that may aggravate a sore mouth or throat
You may need to avoid or limit the following foods:
- rough, coarse, or dry foods, including raw vegetables, toast, and crackers
- foods that are spicy or salty. Avoid foods that are acidic, such as vinegar, pickles, and olives
- citrus fruits and juices, including orange, grapefruit, and tangerine
- tomato sauces or juice
- alcohol drinks or mouthwashes that contain alcohol. Alcohol can irritate the delicate membranes in your mouth
Food and cooking hints
- Cook foods until they are soft and tender.
- Cut foods into small pieces to reduce the amount of chewing required before swallowing.
- Use a blender or food processor to process vegetables (such as potatoes, peas, and carrots) and meats until smooth.
- Add gravy or sauces to food.
- Mix food with butter, margarine, thin gravy, or sauce to make it easier to swallow.
- Drink high-calorie, high-protein drinks in addition to meals.
- Use a straw to drink liquids, to bypass mouth areas with sores and lesions
- Use a smaller-than-usual spoon, such as a teaspoon.
- Try foods cold or at room temperature. Hot foods can irritate a tender mouth and throat.
- Try sucking on ice cubes.
- Try less acidic fruit juices e.g. pear, peach.
- Numb the mouth with ice cubes or flavoured ice lollies.
Source: National Cancer Institute