Anti-inflammatory mouthwashes for the prevention of oral mucositis in cancer therapy: an integrative review and meta-analysis

Clifton P. Thornton*, Mengchi Li, Chakra Budhathoki, Chao Hsing Yeh, Kathy Ruble

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Purpose: Mucositis is severely painful and often reported as one of the most distressing adverse effects of cancer therapy; it is a significant threat to quality of life as well as life itself. Anti-inflammatory agents may modulate physiologic mechanisms that perpetuate mucositis and be useful in prevention efforts. Because systemic anti-inflammatory agents are not appropriate for many patients, locally acting agents (mouthwashes) may be more feasible for use. This review and meta-analysis evaluates the role that anti-inflammatory mouthwashes have in preventing or reducing oral mucositis associated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Methods: A systematic literature review was conducted to identify studies evaluating the efficacy of anti-inflammatory mouthwashes to prevent therapy-associated mucositis. Meta-analysis was conducted to determine efficacy in preventing any mucositis and dose-limiting mucositis. Results: Eight peer-reviewed publications were identified; corticosteroid and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory mouthwashes are effective in reducing overall incidence of mucositis and are associated with lower severity of mucositis. Meta-analysis reveals significant reduction in symptomatic mucositis incidence (OR 6.00, 95% CI 4.39–8.20, p < 0.0001) and reduction of dose-limiting mucositis (OR 2.12, 95% CI 1.07–4.28, p = 0.032). Conclusion: Mouthwashes containing anti-inflammatory agents are a potential effective means to prevent or reduce mucositis associated with cancer therapy. There are limited adverse effects from these agents, and adherence is high, indicating safety and feasibility of use. Anti-inflammatory mouthwashes should be considered for supportive care in persons at risk for mucositis and must be further evaluated to investigate efficacy across multiple chemotherapy agents, adverse effects, and impacts on symptoms, pain, and quality of life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7205-7218
Number of pages14
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number9
StatePublished - 09 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


  • Cancer
  • Chemotherapy
  • Mucositis
  • Prophylaxis
  • Radiation therapy
  • Stomatitis


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