October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are approximately 1.38 million new cases and 458 000 deaths from breast cancer each year throughout the world. About 200,000 women in the US are diagnosed each year. What is the connection between breast cancer and oral health?
Gum disease may actually be a contributing factor to breast cancer. Studies have indicated that women who have periodontal disease are more inclined to also have breast cancer.
A study published by the Journal of Pharmacy & BioAllied Sciences found that out of 3,000 women participating in the research, “those who reported that they had suffered from chronic gum disease or had lost teeth due to periodontal disease were found to be more than two times as likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer as compared to those who had healthy gums.”
Oral health is critical for overall health in general, but particularly if you have been diagnosed with breast cancer. The American Society of Clinical Oncology advises patients to visit their dentist at least four weeks before starting cancer treatment. “During these visits, your dentist or oral health specialist can:
- Treat decayed, broken, or infected teeth and any other dental infection
- Ensure your dentures fit well and aren’t irritating your mouth
- Remove your braces so they don’t irritate your cheeks or tongue.”
Any dental surgery should be scheduled to allow for at least a two-week healing period before beginning cancer treatment. Your dentist should communicate information about your dental health to your cancer doctor. In fact, communication is extremely important for all parties concerned, including you, your dentist, and your cancer doctor.
During cancer treatment, you should continue to take good care of your oral health as well. Remember to brush twice a day and floss regularly. You may find that you will need a softer or smaller toothbrush. Check with your dentist regarding special instructions to reduce bleeding and infection and to maintain good dental health.