Radiation Caries: Why Does it Occur?
Radiation caries is defined as tooth decay that results from radiation-induced dry mouth (xerostomia). The increased incidence of tooth decay in postradiation patients is caused by radiation to the major salivary glands and is not due to radiation of individual teeth. This means that patients having received radiation to one or more of the major salivary glands are susceptible to radiation caries whether or not teeth have been included in the field of radiation. Radiation caries can occur because of the inability of the saliva to destroy bacteria that causes tooth decay and its inability to remineralize the tooth enamel. The decrease in salivary flow and salivary pH also contribute to the process of tooth decay.
NOTE: RADIATION CARIES CAN OCCUR WITHIN WEEKS AFTER RADIATION THERAPY IS COMPLETED.
Suggestions to Help Alleviate Dry Mouth (Xerostomia) Caused by Radiation
- Use pilocarpine (Salagen) 5mg, qid, (prescription required.)
- Try special food preparation – blended and moist foods are easier to swallow.
- Use artificial saliva (available over-the-counter.)
- Sip plain water throughout the day (usually preferred over artificial saliva by most patients.)
- Try Biotene brand, over-the-counter, dry mouth products (toothpaste, alcohol-free mouth rinse and OralBalance lubricating gel.)
- Avoid the use of alcohol-based mouth rinses.
- Try water and glycerin (few drops only) mixed in a small aerosol spray bottle.
- Avoid the use of tobacco and alcoholic beverages.