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Why is a dental visit needed before radiotherapy for head and neck cancer?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Of the many possible side effects of radiotherapy (radiation therapy) for head and neck cancer, osteoradionecrosis is one of the most serious. Osteoradionecrosis is the death (necrosis) of bone caused by the disruption of blood vessels due to radiation therapy. It most commonly occurs in the jaw bone after radiation to the head or neck. The necrotic bone cannot be repaired; it requires surgical removal. Osteoradionecrosis is particularly likely to develop if a tooth is removed, so tooth extraction after radiation therapy is avoided if at all possible. Therefore, before beginning radiation therapy for head and neck cancer, individuals should visit their dentist so that any treatable problems can be fixed and all teeth that are considered unfixable can be removed.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.