Dental Preparation For Patients With Head And Neck Cancer

For patients who are about to undergo radiation therapy for head and neck cancer, a dental examination before treatment can do more than give them a healthier smile.  By precluding many complications that could jeopardize treatment options or delay recovery, a pretreatment dental evaluation can also give patients something to smile about, a more successful radiation treatment and a smoother recovery.

A dental examination before irradiation of head and neck cancers is important for two reasons: to impress on the patient the need for fluoride therapy and to remove any unrestorable, abscessed, or periodontal diseased teeth in the field of radiation therapy.  The biggest dental problems during radiation therapy are cavities and periodontal disease.  In a healthy mouth, saliva balances the acid and dilutes any sugars that are eaten.  Because an irradiated gland can no longer produce saliva, oral acids take advantage and begin to attack the patient’s teeth.  As a result, the patient becomes prone to dental decay, jawbone destruction, and fevers due to these infections, all of which may hinder the recovery from cancer treatment.