Radiation-related damage to dentition

Lancet Oncol. 2006 Apr;7(4):326-35. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(06)70658-1.


Because of typical tissue reactions to ionising radiation, radiotherapy in the head and neck region usually results in complex oral complications affecting the salivary glands, oral mucosa, bone, masticatory musculature, and dentition. When the oral cavity and salivary glands are exposed to high doses of radiation, clinical consequences including hyposalivation, mucositis, taste loss, trismus, and osteoradionecrosis should be regarded as the most common side-effects. Mucositis and taste loss are reversible consequences, usually subsiding early post-irradiation, whereas hyposalivation is commonly irreversible. Additionally, the risk of rampant tooth decay with its sudden onset and osteonecrosis is a lifelong threat. Thus, early, active participation of the dental profession in the development of preventive and therapeutic strategies, and in the education and rehabilitation of patients is paramount in consideration of quality-of-life issues during and after radiotherapy. This Review focuses on the multifactorial causes of so-called radiation caries and presents possible treatment strategies to avoid loss of dentition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dental Caries / etiology*
  • Dental Caries / prevention & control
  • Dentition
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Humans
  • Osteonecrosis / etiology
  • Radiation Injuries* / physiopathology
  • Radiation Injuries* / prevention & control
  • Tooth Loss / etiology
  • Tooth Loss / prevention & control