Breast Cancer and Your Oral Health

At some point in this modern day world of ours, each of us or someone we love will be affected by cancer. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Dr. Ridl and his team want you to be aware of the many ways in which your oral health is impacted by this disease.

It is usually the side effects from the treatment of breast cancer that commonly effect oral and dental health. If you or someone you know is about to start treatment be sure to have a dental exam and cleaning. Many severe problems with teeth can be avoided if caught before traditional chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment begin.


Below is a list of side effects to be aware of.

  1.  Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)

This is probably the most common oral side effect and can lead to massive amounts of tooth decay and even tooth loss. It is best alleviated with use of a prescription strength fluoride gel at home. Custom trays can be made and the fluoride placed in them. Typically the fluoride used is a very mild gel and in the oral tissue is not effected with a burning or stinging sensation like a paste can cause.


  1. Inflammation of the mouth (mucositis)

This is often times very painful and can make chewing and swallowing very difficult. Your dentist or oncologist can prescribe a rinse to comfort the tissues. Brush your teeth with an extra soft toothbrush or wash cloth with warm water, no toothpaste.


  1. Burning mouth syndrome

This may be the beginning of mucsotis. Brush with warm water and an extra soft toothbrush or wash cloth. Avoid any mouth rinse with alcohol and spicy foods.


  1. Low white blood cell count

Your immune system is suppressed from the cancer treatment making you very susceptible to any infections. Because a dental cleaning can expose your blood to bacteria, it is best to check with your oncologist before having a cleaning during or immediately after cancer treatment.


  1. Osteonecrosis

This is a fancy word for dying bone tissue. If your chemotherapy included any bisphosphate medications you might be susceptible to osteonecrosis. This usually only occurs with the more invasive the dental work, like a tooth extraction. The best treatment for necrosis is to have any invasive dental work completed prior to cancer treatment.


Your oral health is very important to us. If you have any questions/concerns or would like to schedule a dental cleaning or exam please give our office a call or email us at [email protected].