Tips on living with a dry mouth 

  • Carry a bottle to sip water or sugar-free drinks, such as sugar-free water or weak iced tea, often. Most prepared drinks that you buy, for example, juices and energy drinks are very acidic, and can damage your teeth. They should be avoided if possible.
  • Sip fluids before and during your meals.
  • Drink blue top milk or cream before eating can help.
  • Chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free sweets to make saliva.
  • Alcohol and smoking can make a dry mouth worse.
  • Limit the amount of drinks with caffeine in them if possible.
  • Artificial saliva gel may help.
  • Use a spray bottle with cooking oil at night. It may help to relieve your mouth.
  • Have a bottle or a glass of water by your bed at night.
  • Use a humidifier at night.

“Will spittle return to the mouth?”

Some people who have a dry mouth may also have a sore mouth. 

“Use salt and water to gargle and rinse your mouth.” 

“Hold water or ice in your mouth.” 

“Ask your doctor about thrush lozenges.” 

“Put gel on with cotton buds.” 

“Avoid foods that will aggravate the situation.” 


Mucositis/Stomatitis is the swelling, irritation, and ulceration of the mucous tissue of the mouth. 

“I find carbonated drinks are painful on the tongue, but the effect can be reduced by stirring the drink with a fork to release a lot of carbon dioxide. I call this the ‘forking’ technique. In the early months after radiotherapy, even a small glass of lemonade caused pain until it was ‘forked’.” 

Comments and suggestions from people living with a dry mouth

Difficulty swallowing

“Drink water.”

“Always have a glass of water on the table when you’re eating.”

“Sip water with each mouthful if you need to.”

“Take small mouthfuls.”

“Eat soft foods.”

“Mash vegetables, cut meat into small pieces.”

Cooking tips

“Meat and vegetables should be well-cooked and served with sauces or gravy.”

“Baking needs fillings or icing.”

“If you’re serving cold corn beef, make parsley sauce to moisten the meal.”

“Heat some food on defrost in the microwave. I find it makes them softer.”

“Casseroles are easier to eat than roasts or chops.Thinner sauces are easier to eat. Cooked fruit is easier to eat than fresh. Vegetable soup is an easier way of eating vegetables.”

"Mash hard foods.”  

“Lightly boil or poach eggs.”

“Sprinkle oils over anything dry.”

Some suggestions for mealtimes

“Gravies and sauces help you swallow food.”

“Try to add liquid to the meals.”

“I always make gravy, sauces, and custards.”

Tips for living with a sore mouth 

  • Eat soft foods that are easy to chew and swallow. 
  • Avoid foods that irritate the mouth (see page 24). 
  • Eat foods which are cool or at room temperature: extreme temperatures, i.e. very hot or cold foods, may irritate a sore mouth. 
  • Drinking through a straw may help because it ‘bypasses’ the sore mouth. 
  • Ice chips or flavoured ice pops can help numb the mouth. 
  • Use a non-alcohol mouth rinse. 
  • Avoid smoking and alcohol. 

Tips for keeping teeth healthy 

  • Limit sugary drinks because they can cause tooth decay.
  • If you do have drinks with sugar, have them only during meals.
  • Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame* and saccharine are okay.
  • Tooth mousse can help.
  • Chew sugar-free gum or suck sugar-free sweets after meals to help make saliva.
  • Gently brush and floss your teeth after meals and before bed. Some people may need to avoid flossing if they are receiving chemotherapy. Check with your oncologist.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste.
  • Visit your dentist every 3–6 months. If you are on a benefit, ask if you are eligible for any extra financial assistance.

* People with the very rare condition of phenylketonuria are unable to break down phenylalanine and so should not use aspartame.

“I find that I have more food trapped between my teeth after a meal than before I had treatment. Rinsing the mouth is certainly necessary, but I find that the daily flossing of my teeth has become much more important than before. I find it most helpful when cleaning my teeth to rinse my mouth first, floss, rinse again, clean them, and then after my night-time clean I apply tooth mousse.”

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