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Hi,

I was diagnosed with breast cancer eight years ago. It all went very fast and I was unfortunately not given much information at all before the treatment (surgery and radiation) started, and no information at all about dental and oral care. I feel that very little was done in the way of supporting me. For instance, when I suffered from dry mouth, I wasn't given anything to help me cope with that.

Now, fast forward to the present and there's something very wrong with my gums. It's not classic gum disease though my gums have receded, but they're also swollen and painful and just look very strange, particularly on one side.

My writing this serves several purposes. One, if you're newly diagnosed with cancer, inform yourself about oral care during cancer treatment. Your oncologist may not tell you by themselves. Second, I am wondering whether there is anything that can be done to treat the issue I have.

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I am sorry you're dealing with a strange situation in the gums! I hope you have seen your dentist about it, but by the sounds of it, you might not have: if you had, you'd surely have a diagnosis, a name to put to the problem? It does sound like periodontal disease to me, FWIW. I read that some kinds of cancer are associated with that, but I think that's oral and lung cancer and not breast cancer specifically. You would certainly do well to pay your dentist a visit and see what can be done because gum disease can easily lead to tooth loss. 

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Hey,

Thank you for taking the time to briefly share your experience and remind people who are about to be treated for cancer to pay a visit to the dentist and ask their oncologists about dental care as well.

My aunt, who is now in her 90s, went through breast cancer about 25 years ago. Shortly thereafter, she also required dentures. I don't know the ins and outs of that, but I remember feeling sad for her that she'd just had one major illness and then needed all her teeth out. I wonder how common dental struggles after cancer treatment are.

Rosie

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Me too. I had tons of small cavities about a year after finishing cancer treatment, whereas I had always brushed my teeth meticulously and had only had a cavity once before that (honestly). I had to have rather a few fillings as well as a root canal treatment. My dentist said this is very common in people who have had chemo and radiation. I'm not sure if there's anything to prevent this, as such, or whether it's just par for the course when you have cancer. I do know that it's too late to prevent anything like that now. I'm definitely seeing the dentist more often. 

No gum issues here, though. Not so far. 

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I have had continuous dental problems since my cancer treatment. I have lost three teeth, my bridge became loose, and now I seem to have a cracked molar in the back that I haven't seen the dentist for. All of this is despite fluoride treatment. 

Like you, OP, I was not informed that this would happen in advance. I had no idea. There is plenty of information about cancer treatment and dental problems around on the internet, so it is obviously a known issue. If I could have done anything differently, I really wish I had been told about it. 

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I think you raise a very important point. Many people believe that it's important to avoid other medical procedures as much as possible while they are undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment for cancer, and they may not see a dentist even if they are aware of problems in their mouths.

If their oral state wasn't in order before treatment, they're especially likely to develop complications, but this can happen even if everything was fine before. You really don't want to leave a dental abscess untreated, even if you're currently undergoing chemo.

Though this is not an oncologist's domain, it is so related to cancer treatment that oncologists should definitely inform patients about dental care!!!

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I had no idea that dental care was such an issue for people with cancer, unless, presumably, they had tongue cancer or cancer of the head and neck region. Thanks for sharing that here, and I'm sorry that you have had such a terrible experience. Frankly, it sounds like your treating doctor didn't provide you with enough information at the time and didn't give you the help you needed at the time. Then again, they're probably too busy focusing on saving your life to pay much attention to teeth.

Do you know if the dry mouth you mention is related to your current dental problems? I've heard that sleeping with an open mouth, which makes it dry, can lead to more cavities for instance.

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Hi Lioness,

Yes, suffering from a dry mouth is related to later poor dental outcomes. It can lead to rapidly developing dental caries, gum disease, and ultimately it can cause you to lose teeth. This is one of the reasons it's so important to have medication for this during cancer treatment, beside the fact that it's highly uncomfortable during an already very trying time. 

This still doesn't explain the weird patch I currently have in my mouth. No idea what it is and what to do about it, exactly. I wish I had answers, but I'm afraid of more dental procedures, both because of the pain/hassle and the finances.

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