Dry Mouth and Cancer - Side Effects and Symptom Management

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Cancer Symptom Management

Side effects and symptom management can utilize a number of different treatments, but you can think about them as being comprised of four main areas: physical, emotional, practical and spiritual. This article will focus on the physical symptom management of Xerostomia, or Dry Mouth.

A mild dry mouth is a feeling that everyone has had at one time or another, but when it becomes a constant presence, it's something that must be treated. In some instances a dry mouth, as a side effect of cancer treatment, can become so bad that patients have reported high amounts of pain in their mouth after a long, restless night, where no matter what they do to get some relief, the sensation of dryness will simply not go away.

What are the symptoms of Dry Mouth? In most cases the answer is quite simple and straightforward; in most cases, Dry Mouth is caused by a lack of saliva, which can lead to a variety of symptoms, such as:

  • a sticky feeling in your mouth,
  • difficulty swallowing or chewing, and
  • having a hard time talking.

In many cases it can also lead to:

  • a painful burning sensation all the way from your teeth to your throat, and
  • the loss of your sense of taste, making your food unsavory and difficult to eat.

If the condition persists, it will cause your dental health to degrade as one of saliva's main functions is to wash away bacteria which cause cavities and gingivitis. Having too little saliva to wash away bacteria may lead to bad breath and plaque buildup.

This condition is exacerbated in cancer patients because chemotherapy or radiation treatments can damage or, in some cases, destroy the salivary glands, resulting in a lower production of moisturizing saliva and causing Dry Mouth. In some cases, this condition is only temporary and will disappear after about 8 weeks once treatment has been completed and the salivary glands have had a chance to regenerate and start working properly once again.

Dry Mouth and Cancer.
Credit: BLS

In the meantime, there are a few options to treat Dry Mouth, including:

  • Increasing your fluid intake to help bring temporary relief to your Dry Mouth, although this may take some time and can be ineffective.
  • Brushing your teeth regularly and using mouthwash can also help relieve Dry Mouth which also helps maintain good oral health (some report mint-flavored toothpaste as being more effective than non-mint-flavored toothpaste).
  • Using a xylitol chewing gum, like XyliGum, for fast and convenient dry mouth relief. Not only does XyliGum quickly stimulate saliva and moisten oral tissues, it also helps to protect against tooth decay as it promotes production of bacteria-buffering saliva.
  • Using XyliMelts as a way to deal with Dry Mouth. Its slow release effect will work during the day, or when many patients report needing it the most, at night. Most simply place one or two discs in their mouth before going to bed, which allows them to sleep well through the night and wake up with a pleasant tasting mouth without the burning pain they would normally feel due to Dry Mouth.

How do XyliMelts work to Treat Dry Mouth?

XyliMelts is a dry mouth product that works by stimulating saliva production, moisturizing the mouth and coating it in a soothing oral lubricant to keep your mouth comfortable for hours. The adhering disc technology means you can use XyliMelts unobtrusively, and makes them safe for use while sleeping. XyliMelts are also all natural, utilizing Xylitol--an effective inhibitor of tooth decay, bad breath and gum disease. To find out more about XyliMelts, visit our products page.

Oral Mucositis

Oral mucositis, a condition caused by chemo and radiation therapy, manifests as, inflammation, ulceration, and hemorrhage in the mouth and throat. XyliMelts can help with low saliva, but Renewing Melts (HB-12 Melts) which slowly release Hyaluronan and bioactive vitamin B12 directly to the sore can help relieve pain and promote healing of oral mucositis sores. To find out more about Renewing Melts (HB-12 Melts), visit our products page.