Xerostomia, the medical term for dry mouth, is a common side effect of head and neck radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Radiation doses of 25 Gy or greater are associated with reduced salivary flow and function. Saliva acts as a natural buffer in the oral cavity, bathing the oral tissues and teeth. Thus, reduced salivary flow can result in an increased risk for dental decay (cavities).
Tips to Combat Dry Mouth
Hydrate hydrate hydrate. Drinking fluids (water is best) will help keep your mouth moist and clean. Additionally, staying hydrated will help thin the mucus and ropey saliva.
Sauces, Gravy, Soups. Choose to eat foods with broth, soup, sauces or gravy.
Soft Moist Foods. Choose soft-cooked chicken and fish over dry meats.
Mist. Sleep with a humidifier.
Artificial Saliva. Consider over the counter salivary substitutes.
Olive Oil. Rubbing olive oil on your oral tissues may provide some relief.
Brush brush brush. Maintain excellent oral hygiene (brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoridated tooth paste and floss daily) to prevent dental decay (cavities).
Pineapple and Papaya. If you do not have mouth sores, you may want to consider eating pineapple or papaya as they may help break down mucus through an enzyme known as bromelain. However, it is important to remember that dental decay (cavities) results from the acidic byproducts of bacteria. In other words, dental decay (cavities) is not caused by bacteria directly but rather by the acids that bacteria release after they metabolize sugars in the mouth. When teeth are exposed to an acidic environment for a prolonged period of time, they are at high risk for developing dental decay. Thus, eating acidic foods may increase your risk for developing dental decay (cavities). So, it is important to brush your teeth after eating acidic foods such as pineapple and to only eat them in moderation rather than throughout the day.