The extent of unnecessary tooth loss due to extractions prior to radiotherapy based on radiation field and dose in patients with head and neck cancer

Radiother Oncol. 2023 Oct:187:109847. doi: 10.1016/j.radonc.2023.109847. Epub 2023 Aug 4.


Background and purpose: Prior to radiotherapy (RT), teeth with poor prognosis that pose a risk for post-RT osteoradionecrosis (ORN) are removed. To allow enough time for adequate wound healing prior to RT, decisions are made based on the estimated radiation dose. This study aimed to gain insight into (1) the overall number of teeth extracted and (2) the patient and tumor characteristics associated with the number of redundantly extracted teeth.

Materials and methods: Patients with head and neck cancer (HNC), treated with RT between 2015 and 2019, were included in this cross-sectional study. For each extracted tooth the radiation dose was calculated retrospectively. The cut-off point for valid extraction was set at ≥ 40 Gy in accordance with the national protocol. Potential factors for doses ≥ 40 Gy were identified, including age, sex, tumor location, tumor (T) and nodal stage (N), overall tumor stage and number of teeth extracted.

Results: A total of 1759 teeth were removed from 358 patients. Of these 1759 teeth, 1274 (74%) appeared to have been removed redundantly, based on the mean dose (Dmean) of < 40 Gy. Using the maximum dose (Dmax) of < 40 Gy, 1080 teeth (61%) appeared to have been removed redundantly. Tumor location and N-classification emerged as the most important associative variables in the multivariable regression analysis.

Conclusion: To our knowledge this is the first study to provide insight into the amount of teeth redundantly extracted prior to RT and represents a step forward in de-escalating the damage to the masticatory system prior to RT.

Keywords: Head and neck cancer; Masticatory system; Oral foci of infection; Osteoradionecrosis; Radiotherapy; Tooth extraction.

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms* / radiotherapy
  • Humans
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tooth Extraction
  • Tooth Loss*