National Smile Month – oral health and cancer

3 minute read time.

It’s National Smile Month. In this blog, Quality and Evaluation Officer Rachael discusses some ways to keep your mouth healthy if you are going through cancer treatment.

National Smile Month is an annual campaign to promote good oral health (the health of our mouths). You can find out more about the campaign here.

The importance of oral health

Oral health is important to allow us to do many things we take for granted each day, such as talking, smiling and eating. The health of our mouths can also have a big impact on our identity and self-confidence.

Oral health and cancer

If you have cancer, you may be facing new challenges in looking after your oral health. This is because some treatments for cancer can lead to a sore or dry mouth. Treatments that can do this are:

Mouth problems usually gradually improve when treatment ends. But for some people changes may be permanent. Making changes to how you look after your mouth during and for a time after treatment can help with some problems.

Eating and drinking

If you have a sore or dry mouth, changing the way you eat and drink can improve your oral health, as well as making you feel more comfortable. It may help to:

  • drink plenty of fluids, especially water
  • keep your food moist by adding sauces and gravies
  • choose cold foods and drinks, as these may be soothing
  • avoid salty and spicy foods.

Other tips for a healthy mouth

Your doctor or specialist nurse will be able tell you about other things that can help. This might mean:

  • visiting your dentist before you start treatment
  • using a softer toothbrush
  • sucking on an ice cube to sooth your mouth
  • using a mouthwash recommended by your nurse or doctor.

Ask a dentist

Did you know you can ask a dentist for advice through our online community? If you need help looking after your mouth during cancer treatment or dealing with the effects of treatment on your mouth, just ask our volunteer dentists. They will aim to get back to you within 3 days.

If you want to know more

We have plenty of information to help you look after your mouth during cancer treatment. This is included in our information about:

You can read about these issues in our booklets or listen to the information on a CD or online via SoundCloud.

You can also read about the main cancer treatments, and about eating problems, in our top 11 community languages.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for, email and we’ll do our best to help.


To see what else Macmillan's cancer information team has been blogging about, please visit our blog home page! You can subscribe to receive our blogs by email or RSS too.

We're with you every step of the way

The Macmillan team is here to help. Our cancer support specialists can answer your questions, offer support, or simply listen if you need a chat. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00.

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