Radiotherapy to the head and neck can cause adverse effects to the oral cavity, and may lead to both acute and chronic complications which can be minimised through optimal dental management. Complications include mucositis, xerostomia, loss of taste, trismus, dental caries, and osteoradionecrosis.
Changes in vascularity and the cellularity of tissue, can lead to hypoxia, hypocellularity and hypovascularity of irradiated soft tissue and bone. These changes can lead to the disruption of normal salivary function, tissue breakdown, and development/progression of periodontal disease.r
Incidence rates vary based on a number of different risk factors (e.g pre-existing dental disease, tooth structure, and radiation dose).
Dental complications during head and neck radiation treatment can arise within the first few weeks e.g xerostomia. Complications can continue lifelong post completion of radiation treatment.
Predisposing dental factors for oral complications include:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Ill-fitting dentures
- Periodontal disease