Written By Dr. Kyle Griffith
58 Dental stands ready to assist our patients who have been diagnosed with head and neck cancer and are preparing to undergo radiation therapy. We understand the gravity of the diagnosis and will do anything we can to support a 58 Dental family member through this challenging time of their life.
What does dentistry have to do with tumor treatment? As a dental office, what can we offer? What should be done before, during, and after radiation therapy?
As medicine has progressed, advanced treatment of cancer has taken on the form of a multidisciplinary approach. No longer is medicine and patient treatment confined to the "silo syndrome," where only single, individual specialists treat a patient from start to finish. A multidisciplinary approach creates a team that works synergistically with one another for the betterment of the patient. A closely-knit team is almost always better than a sole individual.
What role does 58 Dental play? First, a comprehensive examination needs to be performed to assess the structures of the mouth that will be exposed to radiation. Two concerns dominate: One, is it possible to spare some of the oral tissues from unnecessary radiation? Two, what is the state of the teeth in the area to be radiated?
We can create a custom mandibular positioning device and tongue displacement stent that will spare a significant percentage of the oral tissues from radiation. This will enhance treatment, decrease discomfort during treatment, and increase the quality of life after treatment.
Prior to radiation, the health of the teeth and surrounding bone needs to be assessed so that areas of disease and questionable teeth can be addressed. By correcting oral problems prior to radiation, the risk for osteoradionecrosis (dead bone that does not heal) is reduced. The goal is to minimize the risk of trauma to the bone after radiation. An example of this would be to extract diseased teeth prior to radiation when the jaw can heal correctly.
After radiation, it is very common to have some degree of dry mouth. The saliva has a natural protective function for the teeth and a change in amount or consistency can lead to rampant dental caries (decay). We can protect against dry mouth and its effects by prescribing fluoride supplements, sialogogues, salivary substitutes, and salivary acupuncture. Prevention of dental caries is paramount because of the risk that infection or trauma to the bone presents for patients who have received head and neck radiation.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with head and neck cancer, please contact 58 Dental as soon as possible. Time is of the essence. We are here to support our patients, and their multidisciplinary team, to help insure positive outcomes.
Kyle Griffith DMD
7090 E. Hampden Ave.
Denver, CO. 80224