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Mouth Care for the Immune-Suppressed Patient

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Why is mouth care so important?

Having a healthy mouth is very important for the health of your entire body.  Germs such as bacteria can hide in the teeth and gums. If these germs get into the blood stream it can cause serious illnesses.  When teeth and gums are not cleaned regularly, gums may become swollen and painful with open areas that can increase the risk of infections.

How to help keep you/your child’s mouth clean and healthy:

See a dentist for cleaning and evaluation every six months. (First, check with your doctor to make sure it is okay to have dental work or cleaning.)   If your child does not have a dentist your doctor or nurse can make a referral.

Use a soft, nylon tooth brush and fluoride toothpaste to brush teeth.  Toothettes do not clean the mouth well, and should only be used if brushing the teeth is extremely painful due to mouth sores.

  • Toothbrushes should be allowed to dry completely between brushing
  • Change toothbrushes when they become worn out or at least every 2 months.  Replace toothbrushes after your child has an illness with a fever.

Brush teeth and tongue at least 3 times per day, especially after meals and/or before bedtime.  Brush for at least 90 seconds.  For infants without teeth, gently wipe gums with a soft, damp cloth or gauze after feeding.

Rinsing with a bland solution like salt water or an alcohol-free mouth rinse (like Biotene®) after brushing will help keep you child’s mouth moist and clean.

  • Rinse with a teaspoon – to tablespoon (5 – 15 ml) of liquid for 20 – 30 seconds, and then spit out.  Rinse each time after brushing the teeth.
  • To make a salt water rinse at home, add 1 teaspoon of table salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda to 1 pint (2 cups) of  clean water. The mixture can be stored in a closed container for 24 hours, then it should be discarded and a new batch made for the next day.
  • Young children who cannot rinse without swallowing can use toothettes or gauze soaked with the mouth rinse.
  • Your doctor may prescribe an additional mouth rinse to help treat infections or gum issues, use as directed by your doctor or nurse.

Daily flossing is important for healthy gums – ask your nurse or dentist to show you how to safely floss. 

  • Floss only if the doctor tells you that your child’s platelets are in a safe range. Do not floss if your child has active bleeding or if there are sores on his/her gums.

Keep lips lubricated with a petroleum jelly product (like Vaseline) to prevent drying and cracking.


Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 11/2009

(757) 668-7000