Many people undergoing treatment for cancer experience oral problems such as mouth sores or ulcers (technical term is either oral mucositis or stomatitis) at some point in their battle. These sores can make everyday activities like eating or speaking difficult to nearly impossible. They can be quite painful and cause an increased risk of infection that can enter the bloodstream. Conditions in the mouth can even deteriorate to the point where they actually interfere with scheduled cancer therapies.
To treat the pain associated with such mouth sores & ulcers, oncologists typically prescribe either Magic Mouthwash or Miracle Mouthwash to give patients temporary relief. Although these mouthwashes are quite different from each other, many doctors use the terms interchangeably.
Magic Mouthwash (n): A mouth rinse that usually consists of viscous lidocaine, diphenhydramine, & an antacid like Maalox®. Some formulas add in antibiotics, antifungals and/or steroids to the formula. There is no one “standard” formula so different pharmacists will use different ingredients.
Miracle Mouthwash (n): A mouth rinse made up of dexamethasone (steroid), tetracycline (antibiotic), nystatin (anti-fungal) & diphenhydramine (antihistamine).
There is no “standard” formula for either of these mouthwashes (in terms of ingredients & composition) and as you can see they are quite different from each other. Yet it’s important that both you and your medical team know what you are taking.
WHY? Well, you and your doctor need to know exactly what’s being taken to minimize the potential for drug interaction & the possibility of drug allergy. If the formula you are using contains an antibiotic or anti fungal and you don’t have an infection per se, you’re then increasing your mouth’s resistance to that medicine which makes treating future bacterial infections more difficult. And if your mouthwash contains lidocaine, be careful when eating- biting your tongue or cheek while numb can open a whole host of other problems.
THE BOTTOMLINE: ASK your pharmacist what’s his or her “recipe”… or ask your Oncologist to specifically write the prescription indicating exactly what ingredients he or she wants used. Better yet, try to find a dentist that specializes in cancer care. Yes, there are dentists (sometimes referred to as “Dental Oncologists” even though they are not prescribing oncologists) who specifically treat oral side effects resulting from cancer treatments. They may have other options that are specifically designed to help you.