The aim of this study was to analyse mastication and the sense of taste in 39 patients submitted to cancer treatment in different areas of the body and to compare these variables with those of 44 control individuals within the same age range. The following aspects were assessed: dental status (DMFT); stimulated and non-stimulated salivary flow; sense of taste (salty, sweet, bitter and sour); and masticatory performance (MP), through the calculation of X50. Logistic regression models were established to test the association between the independent variables and cancer treatment. Cancer patients had lesser stimulated salivary flow, a smaller number of teeth and occlusal units, worse MP, higher salty, sweet and sour taste scores and a lower bitter taste score (P < 0·05). A significant positive correlation was found between MP and the DMFT index in both groups (P < 0·05), meaning that a lower DMFT index value denoted a smaller X50 value (better masticatory performance). The logistic regression model revealed that patients who had undergone cancer treatment had a greater probability of exhibiting a smaller number of teeth, higher salty and smaller bitter taste scores (P < 0·05). It was concluded that patients who were submitted to cancer treatment presented oral physiology alterations when compared with control subjects at the same age range.