Tips for living a healthy, vibrant life from one cool cat lady

Treating Mouth Sores During Chemotherapy

Today I’d like to share with you some of the logistics of chemotherapy in hopes that it may help you or someone you know when dealing with the same situation.

Chemotherapy is intended to kill rapidly growing cancer cells, but unfortunately that means it also targets other healthy fast growing cells such as those lining your mouth and esophagus. This often results in terrible mouth sores during chemo treatment and unfortunately, I did not dodge that bullet.

A few days after my first chemo treatment I started to notice small cold sores on my tongue and inside my mouth. It was pretty unpleasant and I made it worse by eating a lot of spicy and acidic foods. I think I was in denial that I was actually getting mouth sores, so my first piece of advice is to please admit it when you are experiencing a side effect of chemo and immediately do something about it!

You need to get the mouth sores under control as quickly as possible so they do not become infected, since your immune system is compromised during chemo and an infection is the last thing you want. So I started researching all the things you can do, both topically and systemically, to combat chemo-related mouth sores. This is the list I came up with:

Glutamine Powder
5 grams daily
From 1 day prior through 3 days after treatment, 10 grams 2x daily

If mouth sore occurs:

  • Swish and spit 5 grams in small amount of water, swish for 45 seconds and spit, up to 5x daily
  • Increase swallowed glutamine to 15 grams 2x daily for 48 hours

Sea Buckthorn
1 capsule 2x daily

Slippery Elm
Powder (mix with water and drink)

1 cup of tea daily strengthens gums

Burdock Root
Fresh root held in mouth relieves mouth sores
Burdock root decoction

Magic Mouthwash
Swish 4 to 5 times daily

Salt/Baking Soda Rinse
Rinse with 1 cup warm water, ¼ teaspoon baking soda and 1/8 teaspoon salt


  • Spicy
  • Acidic
  • Rough textures
  • Alcohol
  • Hot/Cold

Brush after eating with mild toothpaste

Oil Pulling

  • Swish 1 tablespoon of coconut oil with 1 to 2 drops of clove essential oil in mouth, pulling vigorously through teeth, for 10 to 15 minutes
  • Rinse with salt water after (~1/4 cup water + ½ tsp salt)

What Worked For Me

I tried all of these things and no one treatment alone did the trick. I finally landed on the right combination of oil pulling followed by salt/baking soda rinse and finally Magic Mouthwash, three to four times a day. I’m also taking Sea Buckthorn, Slippery Elm and Glutamine Powder daily just for good measure.

Magic Mouthwash is a special prescription mouthwash that your doctor will order and the pharmacist will prepare for you. It usually includes some combination of antibiotic, antihistamine, anti-fungal, antacids and/or steroids. Mine has Banophen (antihistamine), antacid and Nystatin (anti-fungal) and it tastes like some weird fruit cream, not fantastic, but another side effect of chemo is that you can’t taste much, so that’s a plus in this case.

I also highly recommend switching to a non-mint toothpaste since mint can be irritating when you have mouth sores. I’ve been using Tom’s of Maine Silly Strawberry Children’s Toothpaste and I love it!

Luckily I have things under control for now and I’ll need to stay on top of it through the rest of my treatment, but at least I have a plan. If you have any other advice on treating mouth sores during chemotherapy, please leave a comment on this post.

10 thoughts on “Treating Mouth Sores During Chemotherapy”

  • Kate, I read all of your Feline Fine articles, they are filled with practical advice and tips. Thanks for keeping us posted on your progress. Mmany positive thoughts are streaming your way.

  • Just stopping by to send *PRAYERS* and best thoughts, and give you huge props for being on top of this! *And yeah, Silly Strawberry is really good!*

  • There is so much helpful information here. I hope if this happened to me I would have the sense to follow your advice every step of the way.

    Thank you.

  • Hi. I’ve been following your story and wishing you well throughout your whole journey and rooting for you to stay and become healthier through your progression of treatment. I thought of a possible Cold sore treatment you haven’t tried that I’ve had success with over the past 20 years since I get them on and off. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, which is an autoimmune disease, that basically causes inflammation throughout your digestive tract, and due to the disease a lot of other problems often come along with it, maybe sometimes in part b/c of some of my medications. But either way, since the beginning I’ve often got cold sores inside my mouth and tongue, one time really severe, but usually just a few now. I’ve used slipperly elm and glutamine for my disease, not necessarily the cold sores, but maybe they’ve been helping too. But what I’ve been doing is from the first sign of a cold sore I start taking L-lysine, an essential amino acid that our bodies do not produce (only found in foods & supplements.). I usually take at least 500mg tablets twice (or 3 times depending on severity), or at times I’ve done 1000mg tablets twice a day. I take them until the cold sores go away, and I’ve found that it at the least doubles the healing time compared to not taking them. Everybody’s body is different and what works for one person doesn’t for another, a fact I’ve found frustrating in dealing with my illness, but since I’ve had success with this I thought I would mention it to you. Because you are taking other medications and supplements I would ask your doctors and homeopath or whoever else is helping you to make sure you take the right dose for you…excessive amounts can possibly lead to gallstones I’ve read, and also it increases your body absorption of calcium, so if you’re taking a lot of calcium you need to balance it correctly. So check with your doctors and maybe giving it a shot will help you. I hope it will clear up for you soon, I know how horrible it feels having them, makes even drinking water unpleasant. So good luck and I wish you all the best!

  • I found that sucking on crushed ice while getting my infusions helped to minimize mouth sores. Of course it wasn’t until my last round of FEC (analogous to AC) that I really got the hang of sucking on the ice chips and moving them around to different parts of my mouth so that I got maybe one sore after that last round.

    The theory behind sucking on ice is that it constricts all the blood vessels and capillaries in the mouth, reducing the amount of chemo drugs that get delivered to the tissues. Since breast cancer doesn’t metastasize to the mucous membranes of the mouth (knock on wood) there’s no concern about reducing the amount of the drugs those tissues receive.

    While getting my taxable infusions I started having problems with dry mouth. There are toothpastes, mouth washes, mouth sprays, losenges, and even little dots that you put in your mouth available from most drugstores that help to reduce mouth dryness.

    One last thing someone suggested to me that I never got a chance to do -don’t be afraid to ask the nurses to administer an extra bag of saline at the end of each infusion – especially if staying hydrated is difficult for you.

    All the best

  • Kate, You are so giving of yourself to place all this information out there to keep us apprised of your journey and to help others who might need it. Great Strength and great heart! Please take care – my respect and prayers for your total recovery!

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