How Long does Xerostomia Last After Chemo (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 2 Months

Chemotherapy is a drug treatment used to eliminate the fast-growing cells in our body. This treatment uses various powerful chemicals to achieve its purpose. This treatment is helpful for patients having cancer. This is because, in cancer, the cells grow rapidly as compared to other cells. Thus, chemotherapy is an effective treatment that helps in killing these fast-growing cells. 

Although this therapy helps treat cancer, it also has its side effects. One of them is having a dry mouth after the treatment, also known as xerostomia. When a person has a dry mouth, it means that his salivary glands are not secreting enough saliva, which is important for keeping our mouth moistened.

How Long does Xerostomia Last After Chemo?

Normal Saliva Flow Rate0.3 – 0.5ml / minute
Saliva Flow Rate During Xerostomia0.1 – 0.2ml / minute

Saliva, secreted by salivary glands, is mostly composed of water (approximately 99.5% water) and some other chemicals. It is an odorless, colorless, and thick fluid, which is secreted throughout your entire life. This fluid is quite important to keep your mouth moistened always and to carry out normal functions like eating and talking.

But when your salivary glands don’t produce enough saliva, that state is known as xerostomia, i.e., having a dry mouth. In this state, it becomes hard to carry out these functions. Patients who had chemotherapy are likely to face xerostomia. Dry mouth or xerostomia is one of the common side effects of chemotherapy. But not to worry as this dry mouth is not permanent, and it lasts for about 2 – 8 weeks, i.e., 2 months.

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When enough saliva is not provided, various medical conditions develop. These medical conditions serve as being the symptoms of xerostomia. One of the easiest symptoms of xerostomia that people can notice is having increased thirst and having a sticky feeling in the mouth. The saliva also becomes thicker due to the chemotherapy drugs. Mouth sores are also considered as the symptoms of xerostomia. This is because the drugs of chemotherapy that are given cause patients to develop mouth sores, also known as mucositis. These mouth sores lead to xerostomia. Some mouth infections may also develop during this period. Your mouth will experience pain or a burning sensation. Your tongue will also be dry when you have a dry mouth. You might also face difficulty in conversing.

Why does Xerostomia Last That Long After Chemo?

Just like any side effect, you will take some time to recover from xerostomia. As mentioned before, xerostomia mostly lasts for about 2 months. But there are some exceptions where they last for 6 months, and rarely, they are permanent. But there are many ways by which you can ensure that you will recover from xerostomia at the earliest. 

Drinking water is one of the most effective ways to treat xerostomia. Water is considered artificial saliva. This is because saliva also mostly contains water. Thus, water helps in keeping the mouth moistened. Sucking sugarless candy or chewing a piece of gum also helps in treating xerostomia. This is because when you suck a candy, it provokes your salivary glands to secrete more saliva. The candy must be sugar-free to avoid consuming calories. The doctor also suggests rinsing your mouth and brushing your teeth after every meal. For rinsing, you should use a solution made by mixing salt and baking soda in warm water. And for brushing your teeth, soften the brush first in warm water before you use it. 

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The doctors will also prescribe you some medicines for xerostomia, which will help your salivary glands to produce more saliva. Acupuncture is also a recommended method that will help to cure dry mouth. You must also avoid consuming alcohol, caffeine, or any kind of acidic fluids. Due to a lack of enough saliva, it will be quite difficult for you to chew your food properly. Hence, you must consume soft, moistened food. Mixing them with broth, milk, or sauces will help in softening the food.

Conclusion

Thus, it is just a matter of 2 months. You are most likely to recover from xerostomia during these 2 months, only if it is treated properly. If xerostomia is not treated properly, it can lead to various medical conditions, sometimes even severe medical conditions. Firstly, it can develop dental problems. Saliva was important in eliminating the acids as well, but as saliva is not enough, these acids will be left behind. These acids will then lead to cavities or gingivitis (gum diseases). It is also hard to put dentures when you are having xerostomia. Xerostomia can also lead to halitosis, i.e., having bad breath. 

References

  1. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00520-002-0407-7
  2. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10266-008-0099-7
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