Many treatment sequelae are encountered when treating head and neck cancer patients by means of ionizing radiation therapy. In many cases, these sequelae are compounded by various nutritional and other medical disorders. Many sequelae can eventually result in severe complications of the jaws and teeth. The radiotherapist needs to utilize the help of the dentist (as well as the surgeon) to prevent many of these complications from occurring, to maintain and manage those that do occur, and to contribute to the overall care of head and neck cancer patients. It was thought for many years that problems of the jaws and teeth, such as osteoradionecrosis and post-irradiation caries of the teeth, were an end product of aggressive radiotherapy. Many of these complications can now be prevented. It should be borne in mind that changes that do occur start approximately 2 months after initiation of irradiation, although it sometimes takes a long time to observe the changes. The priorities along which the objectives of dental treatment should be directed, are discussed in this article.
Breytenbach, H S 
- University of the Western Cape, Bellville (South Africa). Stomatology Unit