Sore mouth due to chemotherapy
- Important contacts for your child with cancer
- Children's Cancer Services in New Zealand
- Cancer diagnosis
- What is cancer?
- Tests for cancer
- Suggestions for successful parent / caregiver support before, during and after treatments
- Central venous catheters
- Cancer treatment
- Clinical trials
- Fasting and consent for procedures
- Side effects of chemotherapy
- Low blood count due to chemotherapy
- Low white cell count and infection
- Low white cell count and infection (continued)
- Low red blood cell count due to chemotherapy
- Low platelet count due to chemotherapy
- Sore mouth due to chemotherapy
- Nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy
- Loss of appetite due to chemotherapy
- Constipation due to chemotherapy
- Sun sensitivity due to chemotherapy
- Hair loss due to chemotherapy
- Fatigue due to chemotherapy
- Hand washing and hygiene
- Pain and childhood cancer
- Treatment of pain in childhood cancer
- Management of pain in childhood cancer
- Nutrition and childhood cancer
- Your child in hospital: The importance of play
- Your child in hospital: Techniques to help with treatments
- School and education when your child has cancer
- Support for the family of a child with cancer
- Going home from hospital after your child's cancer treatment
- Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in childhood cancer
- Long-term follow-up in childhood cancer
- Childhood cancer: Where to go for more information and support
Sore mouth due to chemotherapy
How does chemotherapy affect the mouth and throat?
This fact sheet is part of a section about childhood cancer. To access the rest of the content in this section, see Childhood cancer.
The lining of the mouth and throat becomes weak during chemotherapy treatment and may lead to inflammation and ulcers. This is called mucositis. Mucositis lessens the desire to eat, drink and swallow and it may also lead to septicaemia (bacteria entering the bloodstream). Good mouth care will help avoid infection and will increase comfort.
What is good mouth care?
- brushing the teeth using a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste at least twice a day. This helps to stop plaque build-up and prevent gum disease
- make sure your child's toothbrush is clean and replace it every one to two months
- before a visit to the dentist, tell the dentist that your child is having chemotherapy
- tell your doctor if your child is having trouble with their teeth
- always tell your doctor before making a dental appointment
- keep lips moist by using creams often, including after brushing. Creams such as lanolin and soft paraffin will protect against drying and chapping
When is mouth soreness likely to happen?
Mouth soreness is likely to happen seven to ten days after chemotherapy has begun. This is the time when the blood cell counts are likely to be lowest, and the lining of the mouth will be weak.
What about eating and drinking?
There is advice about food and drink for children with sore mouths in:
What are the signs of a sore mouth?
If your child can't tell you their mouth is sore, these are the signs to look for:
- drooling (in younger children)
- difficulty speaking or opening the mouth
- refusing food and drink because of pain when eating
- difficulty swallowing
- dry or cracked lips
- pale, rigid gums
- redness and / or swelling of the gums
- bleeding gums
- mouth ulcers
How can you help make mouth care fun?
Involve brothers and sisters in the game of mouth care.
- role play with a dolly or teddy
use praise and encouragement; ask for kisses to smell the sweet, fresh breath
play with the swabs, pretending to paint pictures inside the mouth
encourage independence by allowing younger children to hold the swab, put on the gel etc.
Where to go for more information and support
© Paediatric Society of New Zealand and Starship Foundation 2005 – 2013
Printed on 20 June 2013. Content is regularly updated so please refer to www.kidshealth.org.nz for the most up-to-date version
DISCLAIMERThis fact sheet is for educational use only.
Please consult your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for your child.
Fact sheets are subject to copyright. In the interests of information sharing they may be copied but acknowledgement must be given to PSNZ and Starship Foundation.
© The Paediatric Society of New Zealand and Starship Foundation 2005 - 2012