Mouth Rinse Recipes to Use During Chemotherapy

How to make your own

woman using mouth wash from glass
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There are prescription and over-the-counter mouth rinses that can be used to ease mouth pain during chemotherapy, but there are also recipes you can use to make your own. Oral side effects of chemotherapy, such as mouth sores, are not only painful, but can cause problems with everything from eating to talking.

Chemotherapy can lead to dryness within your mouth. When you have too little saliva, your gums may develop sores, or even infections. Your mouth can collect 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. 

Before using any type of mouth rinse, it's important to talk to your oncologist. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, she may recommend you make your own rinses, purchase a product (or have your pharmacist create one) such as Magic Mouthwash or Triple Rinse, or instead recommend a prescription rinse.

Mouth Sores

It's also important to learn about chemotherapy-induced mouth sores as there are many changes that you can make in your diet that can reduce discomfort.

Make Your Own Mouth Rinses

Below are several mouth rinses that you can make and use at home. Some rinses work better for some people than others, so you may need to try a few.

Soda and Salt Mouth Rinse

1/4 teaspoon baking 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

1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup of warm water

Mix well to dissolve the baking soda. This is a good rinse to use before and after a meal because it may soothe any mucositis pain you have, making it easier for you to eat well. Swish and spit, but don't swallow this mixture.

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

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.

Peroxide Rinse for Crusted Sores

1 cup hydrogen peroxide
1 cup water or
1 cup saltwater (1 teaspoon of salt in 4 cups of water)

If you have crusty mouth sores, try using this rinse three or four times a day for two days. Don't use it for more than two days at a time, because it will prevent mucositis from healing. Use a non-peroxide rinse for two days, before returning to this mixture.

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, 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.

Thrush

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

Stay Hydrated

Try to drink at least 64 ounces 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

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.

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Article Sources
  • Chemotherapy and Your Mouth. Pamphlet, PDF format. National Institutes of Health.