While all cancers are serious, breast cancer takes center stage in October. As your trusted Erlanger dentistDr. Darlene Henry wants to send well wishes and thoughts of hope to all the women, and the few men, affected by breast cancer. You’ve probably noticed the hoopla that reminds us about the ongoing fight against breast cancer this time each year. Your favorite NFL players are wearing hot-pink shoes, and many stores are accepting donations for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Retailers donate a percentage of sales from “pink ribbon” products to the Komen Foundation, as well.

To participate in Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Henry wants to share with you how oral health and breast cancer are related, and how to address the oral health concerns that cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy may experience.

Studies Show a Potential Oral Health Link

The World Health Organization (WHO) published a study, spanning from 1985 to 2001, that showed gum disease may increase a person’s risk for developing breast cancer. Experts go back and forth over whether gum disease actually contributes to the cause of various cancers and systemic health problems, but there is no question that the disease is more prevalent in people with certain health conditions.

Gum disease is an infection and inflammation of the periodontal tissue that, along with bone, supports teeth. Because everything in your mouth has direct access to your body via your digestive system and bloodstream, the bacteria that cause gum disease can travel throughout your body. This explains the connection between oral and systemic health. About 80% of Americans have some form of gum disease, ranging from mild gingivitis to acute periodontitis. In addition, the disease is the reason behind most adult tooth loss in our country. To reduce the risk for gum disease and its potential contribution to other systemic conditions, practice good daily oral healthcare at home and visit Dr. Henry for six-month checkups and cleanings. If your gums appear red, swollen, feel tender, or bleed when you brush your teeth, schedule an appointment with Dr. Henry as soon as possible.

Cancer Treatment and Oral Health

Patients who undergo chemotherapy may experience oral health problems, and if you are in this situation, Dr. Henry can help. She recommends that you brush twice a day with a soft-bristled brush and toothpaste that contains xylitol, floss thoroughly once a day, and use an alcohol-free mouthwash. Be consistent with six-month checkups and cleanings, and if you notice a change in oral health, schedule a visit to talk with Dr. Henry.

Oral symptoms that result from chemotherapy include:

  • The feeling of a toothache, without having tooth damage
  • Yeast infection (candida) in the mouth, known as thrush
  • Xerostomia, known as dry mouth
  • Sore throat, difficulty swallowing
  • Infection and inflammation in the mouth
  • Changes in how flavors are tasted

A Compassionate Member of Your Healthcare Team

Do you need a dentist who will listen to your concerns and have empathy for your situation? As a female dentist, Dr. Henry brings compassion understanding to her patients. If you’re going through a rough time in life, whether your issue is breast cancer or something else, Dr. Henry can help you reclaim and maintain good oral health, to support good overall health and a higher quality of life. Call our Erlanger, KY dentist office today at 859-344-8500. We serve families from Cincinnati, Crestview Hills, Ft. Mitchell, Florence, Union, Independence, Taylor Mill, and other Kentucky communities around the 41018 area — and we can’t wait to see your smile!