Mucositis (Mouth sore)

What is mucositis?
Mucositis (mouth sore)

Mucositis or mouth sore is characterized by ulceration or inflammation of the oral mucosal. Cancer patients may have swelling inside the mouth and throat that can lead to painful mouth sores. 

Cancer treatments break down the rapidly divided epithelial cells lining the gastrointestinal tract (which goes from the mouth to the anus), leaving the mucosal tissue open to ulceration and infection. 

How bad is my mucositis or mouth sore?

Mild: Asymptomatic or mild symptoms; intervention not indicated

Moderate: Moderate pain or ulcer that does not interfere with oral intake; modified diet indicated

Severe: Severe pain; interfering with oral intake

How to manage mild to moderate mucositis?

The following tips may help:

  • Brush your teeth gently with fluoride toothpaste several times a day. If the mouth sores are severe, use an oral sponge on a stick, instead of a toothbrush.
  • Floss gently.
  • Rinse or gargle with a solution of saltwater and baking soda. Try mixing 1/2 teaspoon of salt plus 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water.
  • Avoid mouth rinses with alcohol.
  • If you wear dentures, lessen the time that you wear them. Avoid wearing them at night and consider removing them between meals.
  • Choose foods that require little or no chewing.
  • Avoid acidic, spicy, salty, coarse, and dry foods.
  • Try drinking through a straw to help avoid irritating your mouth sores
How to manage severe mucositis?

Seek medical help if you have

  • Red, shiny, or swollen mouth and gums
  • Blood in the mouth
  • Soreness or pain in the mouth or throat
  • Dysphagia (painful swallowing) or talking
  • Feeling of dryness, mild burning, or pain when eating food
  • Soft, whitish patches or pus in the mouth or on the tongue
What causes mucositis?
  • Chemotherapy, radiation therapy to the head and neck area and bone marrow/stem cell transplantation can cause mouth sores.  
  • A low body-mass index
  • Chewing or smoking tobacco
  • Poor oral hygiene

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