Oral Care for Patients Undergoing Head and Neck Radiation and/or Chemotherapy
Radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy may be used in the treatment of head and neck cancers. Radiation therapy given to the head and neck region results in permanent changes in your saliva. The side effects of radiation include a dry mouth (xerostomia), dental decay or cavities (radiation caries), inflammation of the tissues of the mouth (mucositis), loss of taste, muscle fibrosis (resulting in a decrease in mouth opening), and osteoradionecrosis. Due to increase incidence in dental decay, fluoride carriers are recommended for daily use of fluoride. Radiation therapy has a direct effect on the portion of the jawbone which received the radiation resulting in a loss of blood supply. The effect on the jaw bone permanently reduces its ability to heal and resist infection. Therefore, it is strongly recommend to have an evaluation with a dental specialist with experience in head and neck radiation prior to any elective dental surgery.