Breast Cancer & Oral Health

Why You Should See Your Dentist After a Breast Cancer Diagnosis 

Family Dentistry by Dr. Moore supports breast cancer awareness in October and year around. You may be surprised to know that along with your oncologists, physicians, nutritionists, and nurses, your dentist is an important member of your cancer care team.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for women in the United States, breast cancer is the second most common diagnosed type of cancer. Though much less common, men can also get breast cancer. Certain cancer treatments, particularly chemotherapy and radiation therapy, may cause debilitating mouth problems, resulting in pain, infections, tooth decay, and trouble eating.

The good news is that your dentist can help you prepare for and manage the oral complications associated with cancer treatment. Let’s walk through the reasons why it’s so important to visit your dentist and maintain your oral health after a breast cancer diagnosis.

Why Should I See My Dentist Before Cancer Treatment?

Dental problems such as gum disease, cavities, broken teeth, and ill-fitting dentures should be fixed before cancer treatment begins. If left untreated, you’re more likely to develop an infection during a time when your immune system is weakened. A dental infection can cause a delay in your cancer treatment, increasing your risk of disease progression. 

Visit your dentist at least one month before your cancer treatment to complete dental work and allow time for your mouth to heal. Here are some dental procedures that, if needed, should be done before you start cancer treatment:

  • Tooth extractions
  • X-rays
  • Gum treatment 
  • Fillings
  • Cleanings
  • Crowns and bridges
  • Root canals
  • New dentures or partials 

Your dentist will also talk to you about maintaining good oral hygiene habits. Here are some ways to keep your mouth healthy at home:

  • Brush your teeth and tongue with an extra-soft toothbrush
  • Brush twice a day, after meals, and before bedtime
  • Floss daily, avoiding areas that are very sore
  • Drink lots of water
  • Clean dentures daily and remove them at night
  • Avoid smoking and alcohol
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet

Before your cancer treatment begins is a good time to talk to your dentist about what mouth changes to expect in the months ahead. You’ll also need to continue your relationship with your dentist during your cancer treatment.

Why Should I See My Dentist During Cancer Treatment?

Your dentist will guide you through the mouth problems you may experience as a result of  cancer treatment. Let’s take a look at some of the oral side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. 

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth occurs when you have reduced or very thick saliva. Saliva provides a natural defense against tooth decay and gum disease and helps with chewing, swallowing, and speaking. You may experience these problems as a result of dry mouth:

  • Bad breath
  • Mouth infections
  • Difficulty eating
  • Cavities
  • Dry, cracked lips
  • Taste changes
  • Difficulty wearing dentures


Mucositis is inflammation in and around your mouth that is usually painful and results in eating difficulties. If you develop mucositis you may notice the following oral symptoms:

  • Painful mouth sores
  • Difficulty chewing and swallowing
  • Sore throat
  • Red, swollen gums 
  • Bleeding in your mouth
  • Bad breath
  • White patches on your tongue

Oral Thrush

Oral thrush is a yeast infection of the mouth and a common side effect of some cancer treatments. Due to your body’s weakened immune system, you may experience recurrent episodes of oral thrush. Symptoms of oral thrush include:

  • Cracked lips
  • Mouth pain 
  • Pain or cracks at the corners of your mouth
  • Loss of taste
  • White or red patches inside your mouth and on your tongue
  • Burning sensation in your mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing

Your dentist will consult with your team of doctors to help manage your oral symptoms during cancer treatment. The side effects of cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation can take a toll on your oral health. To maintain a healthy mouth, it’s important to follow up with your dentist after your cancer treatment is finished.

Key Points

Your dentist is a key member of your cancer care team. Addressing dental problems before cancer treatment begins can help prevent complications later. The oral side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy can be painful and life-altering. To keep your mouth as healthy as possible, practice good oral hygiene at home and continue to visit your dentist regularly. 

How We Can Help

Our doctors have over 20 years of combined experience providing a full scope of general and cosmetic dentistry services. We believe your oral health is directly linked to your overall health. Therefore we treat the total patient, in a compassionate and comprehensive way.

As a part of your cancer care team, we’ll make sure your mouth is healthy before, during, and after cancer treatment.