Radiation Treatment May Pose Dental Problems

JULY 01, 2004

Researchers advise patients with Hodgkin's disease or breast cancer to inform their dentist if they have received therapeutic radiation treatment to the chest because of possible complications that could affect their dental treatment, according to a report published recently in the Journal of the American Dental Association.

Some patients may experience changes to the heart valves that could predispose them to endocarditis—a serious inflammation of the heart valves or tissues.Whenever there is bleeding in the mouth, oral bacteria can enter the bloodstream and travel to the heart, presenting a greater risk of endocarditis for patients with heart problems.Therefore, the American Heart Association and the American Dental Association have both issued guidelines for dentists to help them protect patients at risk of developing bacterial endocarditis. The guidelines suggest prescribing antibiotics before dental treatment, based on patients' medical conditions and other dental treatments. Antibiotics may be necessary for professional tooth cleaning, extractions, and some oral surgeries.