According to 2010 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breast cancer is second only to heart disease as the leading cause of death for American women. One of the best ways to combat this disease is early detection and prevention, understanding the warning signs. As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, this week’s post covers the surprising—and potentially life-saving—link between breast cancer and oral health, as well as what breast cancer patients can do to maintain their teeth and gums.
Breast Cancer and Dental Health?
Do your gums ever bleed when you floss? Do you suffer from halitosis (bad breath)? Are your gums often sensitive or inflamed? If so, you could be suffering from gingivitis, the first stage of periodontal (gum) disease. Gingivitis and its more advanced form, periodontitis, can raise your risk of infection or even cause tooth loss. In addition to these uncomfortable conditions, having chronically unhealthy or diseased gums could raise your risk of breast cancer by a factor of 11, according to a study conducted by the Journal of Breast Cancer Research and Treatment. Having missing molars (due to gum disease or caries) could also increase your risk. Preliminary research has also shown that measuring the levels of protein in saliva may be able to detect breast cancer early on. Regular cleanings and oral maintenance could help lower your risk of gum diseases linked to breast cancer or even help with early diagnosis.
Chemotherapy and Caries
Unfortunately, almost 300,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, and, for many, chemotherapy is the best treatment option. While this treatment can help women survive this disease, it can also harm their oral health. Chemotherapy reduces saliva flow in the mouth, which increases your risk for cavities, since your spit helps naturally wash away debris on your teeth and gums. In addition, chemotherapy and radiation treatment could compromise a patient’s bone health, so having regular check-ups for temporomandibular jaw disorder (TMJ) could help you diagnose any bone deterioration and manage discomfort. Chemotherapy also lowers your production of white blood cells, making you that much more prone to infection.
Take Control of Your Health
To improve your dental and oral health, ADA recommends brushing, flossing, and using antibacterial mouthwash every day, as well as coming in for any general dentistry treatments you need. You can also use xylitol sprays or lozenges to increase saliva flow and protect against cavities. We recommend you a night guard or massage your jaw to ease the symptoms of TMJ. Women have a family history of this disease should be especially vigilant about their periodontal health. If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer and plan to undergo chemotherapy, you should be sure to have a check-up and cleaning about one month before beginning the treatment.