Dental management in head and neck cancers: from intensity-modulated radiotherapy with photons to proton therapy.

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Supportive care in cancer : official journal of the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer


washington; swedish


INTRODUCTION: Despite reduction of xerostomia with intensity-modulated compared to conformal X-ray radiotherapy, radiation-induced dental complications continue to occur. Proton therapy is promising in head and neck cancers to further reduce radiation-induced side-effects, but the optimal dental management has not been defined.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: Dental management before proton therapy was assessed compared to intensity-modulated radiotherapy based on a bicentric experience, a literature review and illustrative cases.

RESULTS: Preserved teeth frequently contain metallic dental restorations (amalgams, crowns, implants). Metals blur CT images, introducing errors in tumour and organ contour during radiotherapy planning. Due to their physical interactions with matter, protons are more sensitive than photons to tissue composition. The composition of restorative materials is rarely documented during radiotherapy planning, introducing dose errors. Manual artefact recontouring, metal artefact-reduction CT algorithms, dual or multi-energy CT and appropriate dose calculation algorithms insufficiently compensate for contour and dose errors during proton therapy. Physical uncertainties may be associated with lower tumour control probability and more side-effects after proton therapy. Metal-induced errors should be quantified and removal of metal restorations discussed on a case by case basis between dental care specialists, radiation oncologists and physicists. Metallic amalgams can be replaced with water-equivalent materials and crowns temporarily removed depending on rehabilitation potential, dental condition and cost. Implants might contraindicate proton therapy if they are in the proton beam path.

CONCLUSION: Metallic restorations may more severely affect proton than photon radiotherapy quality. Personalized dental care prior to proton therapy requires multidisciplinary assessment of metal-induced errors before choice of conservation/removal of dental metals and optimal radiotherapy.

Clinical Institute