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How a Breast Cancer Diagnosis Can Also Affect Your Teeth

October brings us fall weather, pumpkins and Halloween, but it’s also Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be roughly 266,120 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed in women this year alone.

We don’t typically think about how a breast cancer diagnosis can affect our teeth, but unfortunately there are many oral-related problems that can occur for patients being treated for breast cancer. Some examples include increased gingival inflammation, gingival bleeding, dry mouth, burning tissues, tooth decay, loss of taste, jaw stiffness and jawbone changes.

There are many things patients being treated with breast cancer can do to decrease some of the side effects. A few examples include:

  1. Focus on drinking plenty of water throughout the day
  2. Chew on sugarless gum or candies, which will help with the dry mouth
    1. The sweetener Xylitol works best to help with dry mouth and according to the American Dental Society is actually proven to help prevent decay (although – be sure to keep Xylitol away from pets, especially dogs, because even in small doses, it can be fatal
  3. Brush with an extra soft bristle toothbrush after every meal. If it still hurts, use hot water to soften the bristles.
  4. Use a highly fluoridated toothpaste to help prevent dental cavities
    1. Choosing the right toothpaste for your needs is important: see here
  5. Rinse with products such as Biotene several times a day to help keep the oral cavity moist
  6. Perform jaw exercises (taught by your DDS/Physical Therapist) to prevent jaw stiffness

If diagnosed, it’s important for you to know how a breast cancer diagnosis can also affect your teeth. If you or anyone you know have been diagnosed with breast cancer, please have them contact our office so we can develop a customized plan to help keep your mouth and teeth as healthy as possible.


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