Breast cancer affects 1 out of every 8 women and 1 out of every 1000 men. Along with all of the other difficulties that breast cancer brings, there are dental concerns that also need to be addressed. If you're just learning how to handle life after a breast cancer diagnosis, this is what you need to know about your dental care from now onward.
Before you start chemo
If you plan on having chemotherapy treatments for your breast cancer, make an appointment to see your general dentist well in advance of your first chemo treatment, if at all possible. It can be difficult if not impossible to get dental work done while you are in the middle of chemo because of the risk of infection, so having a checkup before you start is crucial. Your dentist can run X-rays to make sure that there aren't any cavities that need tending prior to the start of the therapy. Your dentist will also look for any signs of infection that need to be treated or root canals that need to be done so that you go into chemo as healthy as possible.
During your treatment
Chemotherapy causes different problems for different people. While some people experience relatively few symptoms, others develop painful mouth sores along their gums and the roof of their mouth.
Dry mouth is also a common side-effect of chemo, and it can make it difficult for you to cleanse your mouth properly. Saliva helps keep your mouth free of bacteria and is a natural protectant. Talk to your dentist about what you can do to increase saliva production and ask if medications would be helpful to control the problem.
Mucositis is also another problem seen in chemo patients, which leads to open sores, the increased possibility of infection, the inability to eat or speak without pain. Your dentist can't cure the condition but he or she can help manage the problem and make you more comfortable.
Your dentist may also want to prescribe a chlorhexidine gluconate rinse, which can be used to keep oral bacteria under control while you're going through chemo.
After your treatment is over
No matter what you do, chemotherapy is hard on your teeth. Chronic periodontal disease appears in 98% of breast cancer survivors and 16% will experience bleeding gums related to gingivitis, a disease of the gums. After your chemo is over, your dentist will need to take a new set of X-rays and see if any teeth are damaged beyond repair.
For more information, consider contacting a dentist like Edens Greg DMD as soon as possible.