Ask a dentist

Do you need advice on how to look after your mouth during cancer treatment? Or for help with the effects that treatment is having on your mouth? Ask our volunteer dentists Lynsey and Judith, and they'll aim to respond in 3 working days.

Altered Taste

Posted by


i am 6 months post RT for base of tongue SCC

i am obsessed with keeping my mouth clean and have got the thumbs up from both my dentist and hygienist. 

I brush before and after breakfast and after lunch and dinner with Duraphat.

Floss and interdental brushes twice a day 

Fluoride mouthwash after every cup of tea

Saliva is problematic coming only with gum chewing not with eating  

i have a persistent sour taste in my mouth which is awful and what this post is about  

Could  I be overdoing the whole mouth cleaning bit or is it just destruction of taste by the RT?

Thanks for your opinion  

Judith - Macmillan
Posted by

Good morning Beesuit 

Thanks for bringing your question to us here at Macmillan.  I'm sorry to hear you have a persistent sour taste in your mouth.

Altered taste indeed can be a side effect of your radiotherapy treatment.  It can be due to a combination of your taste buds being directly damaged by the RT and also a lack of saliva which you describe.  Perhaps speaking with your dentist or doctor about saliva replacements and substitutes that could be prescribed.  You may have tried these in the past but artificial saliva can come in forms of gels and sprays to help coat your mouth and may make the sour taste less noticeable. 

It sounds like you really take care of your mouth which is important when you have a lack of saliva.  Altered taste can also be a sign of mouth infections including gum disease but if you have been given the thumbs up from your dentist, this will be unlikely.  Some mouthwashes if over used, more commonly corsodyl, can have an affect on taste.  

I think its great you take such good care of your teeth.  One thing I would say is watch with too much tooth brushing as you can wear away parts of the enamel leading to sensitivity.  This is common along the gum line and can be a result of too much or too forceful toothbrushing.  Without examining you its difficult to say if there are any signs of this happening but your dentist can keep an eye at your regular visits. 

I hope some of this information is helpful.  Do get back in touch if you have any other questions. 


Remember you can also speak with the Macmillan Support Line team of experts. Phone free on 0808 808 0000 (7 days a week, 8am-8pm) or by email.  

Posted by

Thank you Judith

It's a waiting game to see if there is an improvement