Oral mucositis is a common side effect of cancer treatment experienced by many patients. As such, patients with sensitive mouths and gum tissue may start looking into how to prevent mucositis. Unfortunately, if you are a cancer patient going through chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment, there is not much you can do to entirely avoid mouth sores. However, while oral mucositis is not entirely preventable, patients can take several steps to keep their mouths healthy and prevent this condition from becoming severe.
Visit Your Dentist
If you’re wondering how to prevent mucositis, you should start with the basics – making sure you don’t have any inflammation in your mouth that could cause even more pain and discomfort. Oral mucositis can worsen with the presence of viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens. See your dentist prior to the start of treatment to address any infections or dental issues you may have. Gum disease, infected or degrading teeth, and even cavities can increase the severity of oral mucositis.
Maintain a Rigorous Oral Hygiene Routine
A strict oral care regimen can reduce the severity of oral mucositis and the risk of infection. Brushing your teeth, rinsing, and flossing multiple times a day, particularly after eating, can significantly decrease the incidence of infection. Patients can also sterilize toothbrushes and other tools going into the mouth to help avoid infection. Start these types of behaviors before treatment. Developing an oral hygiene regimen early on will make adhering to the routine during therapy easier.
If you smoke, it is strongly recommended you refrain during treatment. Aside from being carcinogenic, smoking during treatment can increase your risk of infection and make it harder for your mouth to heal. This happens because tobacco decreases blood flow to the gums, which is a necessary function for healing. Smoking also causes dry mouth as it reduces the production of saliva, usually resulting in plaque buildup, tooth decay, and a variety of other issues.
Maintain a Nutrient-Rich Diet and Avoid Irritating Foods
Vitamins and nutrients also play a crucial role in helping you reduce the harmful impacts of cancer treatments by boosting the immune system and sustaining your body. A diet rich in non-acidic fruits and vegetables, such as avocados, melons, berries, mushrooms, and carrots, can help your body get the vitamins and nutrients needed to stay strong enough to fight infection while also promoting healing. Additionally, it is recommended you start avoiding foods that are spicy, hot, acidic, and with a coarse texture – these items can irritate the lining in your mouth and gastrointestinal (GI) tract, as can acidic beverages like alcohol, black tea, coffee, and soda.
Talk to Your Doctor
Working with an experienced healthcare provider familiar with mucositis can make all the difference in managing symptoms effectively. Make sure to discuss any history of mouth sores or GI-related issues with your doctor. Your doctor may recommend specific behaviors to incorporate into your daily routine or products to purchase, including nutritional supplements such as Healios® to include as part of your cancer treatment plan.