Oral and Dental Health in Head and Neck Cancer Patients

Part of the Cancer Treatment and Research book series (CTAR, volume 174)


A diagnosis of head and neck cancer (HNC) is typically followed by therapy that is associated with immediate and long-lasting toxic consequences. HNC patients’ oral health needs may be complex and are best addressed in multidisciplinary collaborative teams including surgical, medical, and radiation oncologists, dental providers, nutrition, speech/swallow specialists, and physical therapists. Oral health maintenance also requires patient compliance and caregiver support. The role of dental providers begins prior to cancer diagnosis and continues through survivorship. This includes oral screening and health maintenance, management of common oral complications such as mucositis, pain, infection, salivary dysfunction, altered taste, and dental decay, as well as complex issues that include soft tissue fibrosis, osteoradionecrosis of the jaw, dysphagia, and recurrent/new primary malignancies. As the number of potential therapeutic interventions for HNC increase, so do the spectrum of side effects affecting the oral cavity, oropharynx, and dentition. Specific approaches to oral care must be tailored to the idiosyncrasies of the patient and his/her therapy and condition. Oral and dental care is impacted by the patient’s oral and dental status prior to cancer therapy, as well as the specific cancer type, location, stage, and its treatment and potential comorbid conditions. Communication between the dental professional and the oncology team is required for appropriate therapy and is best accomplished by integrated healthcare teams.


Cancer treatment protocols Oral and oropharyngeal complications Head and neck cancer survivors 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cedars-Sinai Health SystemSamuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer InstituteLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Division of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck SurgeryCity of HopeDuarteUSA
  3. 3.Dept of MedicineWeill Cornell Medical CollegeNew YorkUSA

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