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Oral Hygiene Associated with Radiation Therapy

Background

Radiation treatment to the head/neck region is detrimental to the mucous membranes of the mouth, teeth, jawbone, salivary glands, temporomandibular joint, masticatory muscles depending on radiation dose and location, and may cause acute and chronic side effects.

Mucositis is one of the most common acute side effects from radiation to the head/neck. It is defined as an inflammation-like process in the oral mucous membrane caused by ionizing radiation. Ninety to 100% of patients treated with radiation to this region develop mucositis. The extent varies with radiation field and dose. Mucositis increases the risk of serious infections including sepsis.  

Other acute side effects:

  • Infection
  • Salivary gland dysfunction
  • Dry mouth due to reduced saliva secretion
  • Taste dysfunction
  • Bleeding
  • Pain
  • Viscous mucous 

Pain in the mouth can reduce the patient's quality of life by reducing food intake, causing dysphagia, and hoarseness. The acute side effects last for up to 4-6 weeks after end of radiation therapy. 

Chronic side effects:

  • Salivary gland dysfunction
  • Dry mouth
  • Taste dysfunction
  • Cavities in the teeth
  • Periodontal disease
  • Osteo(radio)necrosis
  • Reduced mouth opening (trismus)

Optimal dental and oral hygiene without damage to the teeth, jaw, mucous membranes, and salivary glands, prevents and reduces severity of side effects and complications.

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