Oral Health Maintenance in Head and Neck Cancer Patients

Aug. 23, 2016

A Peer-Reviewed Publication Written by Kathryn Gilliam, RDH, BA


Many head and neck cancer patients are not treated in large cancer centers that have dental oncologists as a part of the cancer care team. They are being treated in smaller cancer centers or private oncology practices where there may not be a focus on oral health. These people are coming to their regular dental offices for care, often with side effects of their cancer treatment. Standards and protocols are detailed for use in a general dental practice. This course consolidates current recommendations into specific protocols that are easily implemented in the general dental practice. The goal is to give dentists and dental hygienists the confidence to treat head and neck cancer patients effectively and with concern for the whole person who is in need of special care at this vulnerable time.

Educational Objectives:

At the conclusion of this educational activity participants will be able to:

1. Recognize common oral complications resulting from radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and other cancer treatments.
2. Identify when it is considered safe to treat a patient undergoing cancer treatment.
3. Develop an individual plan for treatment of various oral complications to assist in the supportive care of the patient undergoing cancer therapy.
4. Recognize the dental professional's responsibility to protect the oral health of the patient undergoing treatment for head and neck cancer and the need to be an advocate for oral care during this critical time in the patient's life.

To view this entire course, click here.