PURPOSE: Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) has changed radiation treatment of head and neck cancer (HNC). However, it is still unclear if and how IMRT changes oral morbidity outcomes. In this prospective study, we assessed the outcome of reducing post-IMRT sequelae by means of pre-radiation dental screening and eliminating oral foci.
METHODS: All consecutive dentate patients > 18 years, diagnosed with primary oral or oropharyngeal carcinoma, referred for pre-treatment dental screening between May 2011 and May 2013, were included and followed for 2 years. Patients were treated with IMRT or IMRT with chemotherapy (CHIMRT). Dental screening data, demographic data, and data on oral sequelae during follow-up were recorded. Diagnosed oral foci were treated before start of the radiation therapy.
RESULTS: Oral foci were found in 44/56 (79%) patients, consisting predominantly of periodontal breakdown. Bone healing problems after radiotherapy occurred more often in patients with periodontal pockets ≥ 6 mm at baseline (19 vs. 4% in patients with pockets < 6 mm). Osteoradionecrosis developed in 4/56 patients (7%) during follow-up. In line with this observation, multiple logistic regression analysis showed that the periodontal inflamed surface area, which is higher in patients with more severe periodontal disease, predicted that a patient has a higher risk on developing osteoradionecrosis or bone healing problems (p = 0.028).
CONCLUSIONS: Patients with severe periodontal disease before IMRT/CHIMRT are more prone to develop bone healing problems post-radiotherapy.