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Article: Volume 44 Number 3 Page 209 - March 2017

  Dent Update 2017; 44: 209-215  Read article

Restorative dentistry:  Head and Neck Cancer Patients – Information for the General Dental Practitioner

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Abstract: Salivary gland damage is the most common adverse effect associated with radiation therapy to the head and neck. A combination of hyposalivation and dietary changes, with a reduced emphasis on oral hygiene practices can contribute to a massive increase in a person’s caries risk status. This can be further complicated by limited mouth opening. To enable optimal dental care for head and neck cancer patients before, during and after radiation therapy, patients must be informed and educated about the potential risks of dental caries and the preventive strategies available. All patients should receive a pre-radiotherapy dental assessment by a Restorative Dentistry Consultant. This information will be delivered to the patient, often at an emotionally charged time, and can be lost amongst all the information related to other aspects of his/her cancer management. General Dental Practitioners (GDPs) are therefore in a pivotal position to reiterate this information post radiation therapy and ensure compliance with preventive strategies, with the overall aim to improve quality of life and avoid the need for future extractions and the resulting risk of osteoradionecrosis.

Clinical relevance: This article highlights the GDP’s role in the shared management of head and neck cancer patients who have received radiotherapy as part of their cancer treatment. The critical issue of dental caries, one of the late effects of radiation-induced hyposalivation, will be focused upon. Other side-effects, such as trismus and osteoradionecrosis, will also be discussed. This article aims to supply GDPs with accurate information to provide to their patients with post radiation therapy, whilst highlighting what treatment is within their remit and when it may be appropriate to refer.

Author notes: Jennifer Noone, BDS(Hons), MFDS RCPS(Glasg), DCT3 Restorative Dentistry, Leeds Dental Institute, Craig Barclay, BDS, PhD, MPhil, FDS RCPS, DRD RCS, MRD RCS, FDS RCPS(Rest), Consultant in Restorative Dentistry/Honorary Professor in Maxillofacial Rehabilitation, University Dental Hospital of Manchester, Higher Cambridge Street, Manchester M15 6FH, UK.

Objective: To understand the oral side-effects of radiotherapy to the head and neck and the importance of the GDP’s role in the shared, lifelong management of head and neck cancer patients, post radiation therapy.