Chemotherapy and Pharyngeal Cancer

Last Modified: June 8, 2012

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Is it safe to go to a dentist when I am getting radiation or chemotherapy for pharyngeal cancer? Will my dentist know what to do or even want to see me?


Alexander Lin, MD, Radiation Oncologist at Penn Medicine, responds:

We recommend seeing a dentist prior to starting chemotherapy and radiation. The known side effects of radiation include dry mouth, which, over time, can lead to an increased risk of cavities, which may require extractions. Extractions that are performed at any point after radiation therapy, can be risky, due to the increased risk of poor wound healing and jaw damage from extractions after radiation.

Our dentists, when performing a pre-radiation dental evaluation, will help provide an action plan to take great care of your teeth during and after radiation (often with the use of supplemental fluoride on a daily basis), with the goal of minimizing future risk of cavities, and minimizing the need for teeth extractions.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire Head and Neck Cancer Q&A Webchat transcript.

Recent Drop Seen in Oral, Pharyngeal Cancer Mortality

Nov 24, 2011 - From 1993 to 2007, mortality rates decreased for black and white men and women with oral cavity and pharyngeal cancer, with a significant decline seen among those with more than 12 years of education, according to a study published in the November issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology -- Head & Neck Surgery.

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