SAN FRANCISCO—Few protocols have been published for the dental management of patients with head and neck cancer to prevent complications from head and neck radiation therapy, according to a new study. 

The report in the Head & Neck journal pointed out that radiation therapy affects not only the tumor cells targeted but also the dentition, bone, salivary gland and oral soft tissue structures.

San Francisco VAMC authors and colleagues noted that a comprehensive dental evaluation prior to head and neck radiation therapy can help prevent many complications. 

As a result, a workgroup of oral health providers within the VA developed clinical guidelines to address the issue. Participants focused on developing a set of recommendations regarding dental care prior to the initiation of head and neck radiation therapy based on the best clinical evidence and expert consensus. 

In addition, a systematic algorithm was developed for the evaluation including pre-exam data gathering, examination, education, and treatment, followed by maintenance and postradiation dental follow-up. 

This document is evidence-based, patient-centered, consistent with accepted practices of care and safety and in accordance with applicable statutes and regulations.

White JM, Panchal NH, Wehler CJ, Bestgen SC, Colón JE, Desai HG, Hogue CM, Marianne Jurasic M, Maritim BC, Ortega AP, Smith GM, Taylor JY, Gibson G. Department of Veterans Affairs Consensus: Preradiation dental treatment guidelines for patients with head and neck cancer. Head Neck. 2019 May;41(5):1153-1160. doi: 10.1002/hed.25519. Epub 2019 Jan 8. PubMed PMID:30620438.