Nutrition therapy

Dry mouth and thick saliva

Cancer treatments may cause dry mouth. Your saliva can change and become thick, sticky or stringy. A dry mouth and changes in your saliva may cause difficulty swallowing, eating and talking. A dry mouth can lead to dental cavities and mouth infections.

  • Maintain good oral care. Avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol. Rinse your mouth before and after meals with plain water or a rinse made with 1 quart water, ¾ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon baking soda.

  • Drink at least 8-10 cups of fluid per day. Sipping beverages through a straw may be easier.

  • Consume soft, bland foods. Try shakes, smoothies, fruit nectars, blenderized fruits and vegetables, very tender beef, chicken or fish and well-thinned cereals.

  • Room temperature or slightly chilled foods and beverages may be better tolerated.

  • Avoid sticky foods like nut butters.

  • Avoid salty foods.

  • Add moisture to foods using sauce, gravy, dressing, soup, broth, cream, butter or yogurt.

  • Suck on ice cubes.

  • Try nutrition supplements like Ensure, Boost and Carnation Instant Breakfast.

  • Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless candy. Citrus-flavored candies, such as lemon drops, may work best.

  • To thin thick saliva, try very sour or very sweet foods and beverages such as lemonade or cranberry juice.

  • Limit caffeinated beverages and foods like coffee, teas, soda and chocolate.

  • Avoid tobacco and alcoholic beverages.

  • If you mouth remains dry, ask your medical provider about saliva substitutes and saliva stimulants.

These suggestions are not meant to replace talking to your doctor and registered dietitian. For more information regarding dry mouth and thick saliva, schedule an appointment with the Registered Dietitian at the UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center by calling (608) 265-1700.

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