Head-and-neck cancer is the most common cancer worldwide with an estimated global incidence of 500,000 new cases annually. The term "oral cancer" is used to define any cancer that develops in tissues of the mouth, face, salivary glands, throat and neck. Patients with oral cancer are generally treated with a combination of radiotherapy and ablative surgery. After radical cancer surgery, the oral rehabilitation of a patient is a demanding procedure. For patients who’ve suffered from oral cancer, dental implants are usually the best tooth replacement option in terms of mastication, esthetics, and speech function.
What is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancers are part of a group of cancers referred to by doctors as head and neck cancers. This includes cancers of the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses, and pharynx. If not diagnosed early, oral cancer can be life threatening. Oral cancer tends to appear as a growth or sore in the mouth that does not go away.
Dental Restoration Options
Both dental implants and bone augmentation have advanced the dental prosthetic rehabilitation and tooth restoration following oral cancer surgery. The following dental techniques produce high-quality results for dental reconstruction, providing patients with aesthetically pleasing and high-functioning teeth.
Bone augmentation is a process used in dental surgery to replace or rebuild bone previously removed from the jaw during cancer surgery. Surgeons use bone from another part of the patient’s body, purified animal bone, or synthetically crafted bone to replace the lost bone.
After restoring the jawbone through bone augmentation, dental implants are placed to restore the physical appearance and function of the mouth. In dental implants, implant fixtures take the place of the root of a tooth. Instead of resting on the gum line like dentures, the implants are placed into the jawbone to mimic the root of a tooth. During osseointegration, the biocompatible implants fuse with the surrounding jawbone. Once the metal root is in place, the dentist or surgeon attaches a new life-like tooth to complete the restoration process.
Dental implant treatment requires extensive planning and preparation to be successful. This includes correctly managing the soft tissue contours which is critical for esthetics and hygiene, and for the health of these tissues. Some dentists will spend significant time shaping impermanent implants or placing customized healing abutments to help contour the soft tissues. A good dental lab, like DDS Lab, can facilitate this process by producing soft tissue models.
What Are the Challenges?
However, even implant treatment in oral cancer patients is challenging because the bone into which the dental implants are placed has often undergone radiation. Additionally, implant failure increases when implants are placed in previously treated bone because healing can take much longer. The success rate for dental implants after radiation therapy can depend on where in the body the patient’s cancer was treated. Modern medicine often allows radiation treatment to be concentrated in a single area, so the farther away the radiation site is from the mouth, the more likely the patient will have successful dental restorative treatment. The amount of radiation you experience can also have an impact.
Please remember, our experienced technical team at DDS Lab is here to discuss specific treatment plans with you, and we will work with you to help ensure patient satisfaction.