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HealthInfo Canterbury

Mouth care when you are sick

A healthy mouth is clean, moist, and pain-free. But illness or medication can affect the cells that line your mouth and cause unpleasant side effects, such as changes in taste, sore or bleeding gums, dry mouth, oral thrush, redness, swelling, and ulcers.

Taking good care of your mouth will help to stop this from happening.

This page is for people who can care for their own mouth. If you are caring for someone else, see Carer's guide to mouth care or Mouth care for someone who is dying.

Cleaning your mouth

Routine mouth care

If you have dentures (false teeth)

Other things that can help

Dry mouth

Having a dry mouth can be very uncomfortable. A lot of things can cause it, including dehydration, infection, anxiety, medications, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment to your head and neck. Check with your doctor to see if what's causing your dry mouth can be treated.

Try some of these tips to keep your mouth moist:

This page has more information about dry mouth and how to manage it.

Sore mouth

If your mouth, tongue, or throat become sore or red, or get a fuzzy coating, you may have oral thrush (candida). See your doctor about this, as it's easy to treat with antifungal drops. If you have dentures, make sure you treat these, too.

To stop it from happening again, take good care of your mouth by regularly cleaning and moistening it.

If your mouth is sore, try the following tips:

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by Canterbury DHB and community palliative care specialists. Last reviewed October 2018.


See also:

Dry mouth

Carer's guide to mouth care

Glass of water image courtesy of taesmileland at

Page reference: 5341

Review key: HIMCS-5341