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Survey of experiences and barriers to dental care post–head and neck cancer in OraRad study participants

Published:December 12, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.oooo.2022.11.011

      Purpose

      Dental care after head and neck cancer (HNC) treatment is crucial to maintaining oral health and preventing/treating oral complications. This survey investigated the experiences and barriers to dental care post–radiation therapy (RT).

      Methods

      Participants of the Clinical Registry of Dental Outcomes in patients with head and neck cancer (OraRad) were surveyed at approximately 4 years post-RT. Participants completed a 20-question survey which assessed perceptions of dental care and education, barriers to receiving care, and ongoing physical symptoms post-RT.

      Results

      One hundred fifty-three of the 505 available OraRad participants completed the survey. Almost all of the respondents (n = 141; 92%) either strongly agreed or agreed that they understand the effects of cancer and its treatment on the teeth, mouth, and jaws. The majority (n = 119; 80%) strongly agreed or agreed that their dentist provided them with information on how to keep teeth, mouth, and jaws healthy after treatment. Most participants reported dry mouth (n = 114; 75%). Other sequelae were problems swallowing (n = 57; 38%), dental caries (n = 33; 22%), and difficulty keeping their mouth open during dental procedures (n = 26; 17%).

      Conclusions

      The OraRad respondents reported few barriers to dental care post-HNC treatment. Patients continue to suffer oral/maxillofacial side effects of radiation treatment, most notably xerostomia.
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