Radiation Mucositis: What it is, the Causes, Features, and Treatment

When one is looking for information on radiation mucositis, they’re often bombarded with a bunch of information that one might not understand right away. However, radiation mucositis is a very serious issue, especially for those that have had radiation treatment from a dentist, or any dentist period. This article will go over what radiation mucositis is, and all that it entails.

What it is, is it’s a side effect from various treatments for cancers in the head and neck. Essentially, it happens when the ionizing radiation and cellular damage of the basal cells occurs in the oropharynx. What this means, is that it causes ulcers, along with infection, in many patients since the mucosal lining is thinner than before. It also can cause malnutrition in patients affected with this.

If you have radiation and chemotherapy, this is compounded even more. There is even oral sensitivity seen after the radiation treatments due to this, along with other neurological syndromes. If hypersalivation or dry mouth happens, it’s often seen as one of the most common symptoms of radiation therapy, which will then lead to oral colonization by candida. In many cases, if one is using tobaccos or dentures, this can increase even more.

Typically, the lesions that are seen here are mostly caused by radiation. They usually happen about a week or two after radiation has begun, with the ulcers forming around the third or fourth week. You might see these symptoms for as long as 2-8 weeks after therapy is done, and in the case of extended radiation, the tissues along the mucosal tissues and the submucosal tissues are seen much more. The connective tissues can also be affected too.

These lesions seem to happen more and more as therapy begins, and they heal about 4-8 weeks after. Depending on how much radiation one is exposed to will determine the development of the mucositis that is seen in the body.

Mucosal tissues that surrounds any metal restorations are more affected because the radiation that is used is in contact with the metal restoration appliance that is in there, and it is known to travel. So, if there are restorations in the mouth, the primary beam will scatter much further resulting in mucosal breakdown. If one has a metal appliance in their mouth that is removable, it should be removed so that the tissue around this area is pulled away so that it decreases the radiation exposure. If you need further help, there are also some vinyl guards and some cotton rolls that you can get.

Now, for treatment there are a few things one can get. This is a very painful condition, along with one that does cause discomfort. Typical anesthetics do help, such as benzocaine orobase can be prescribed to that area as needed.

If you need systemic relief, especially for the treatment of the pain associated with the sores, you can get Acetaminophen and ibuprofen for this. You should take this about three times a day for the best results.

If you’re still struggling with this, do make sure that you see someone such as a Eugene dentist to help with this. Oral, head, and neck cancers are no fun, and for many people, this can cause major pain. Often, seeing the doctor that helped with her treatment of the cancer, whether it be the radiation and the chemotherapy, will help you with any problems that might come up as a result of this.

Another great thing to try is, according to Louis B, Harrison in his book “Head and Neck Cancer” there is evidence that shows that there is a magic mouthwash that you can use in order to help with the pain in this. This will bring the patient not only extra relief, but it will also aid the healing.

Now, to make this, you should dilute this formula, since it is pretty strong and for a mouth that is sensitive, it can cause a lot of pain and sensitivity to the person. What you put in there, is normal saline solution, NaHCO3, liquid Benadryl, and viscous Xylocaine 2% together. You should then mix it together, adding more saline to help dilute the formula if it does become too strong. Once you make it, you should then gargle with this three times a day, doing so for at least a minute or so, in order to aid in much faster healing as a result.

If you’re a smoker and you’re suffering from radiation mucositis, or you need radiation therapy period, it’s a good thing to quit smoking for at least the duration of the therapy. That’s because, if you’re smoking during, or even after the radiation therapy, this will cause further lesions to appear. You might have already had these once before, but with smoking, especially right after the radiation therapy itself, it can make the lesions grow even more so. If you can, do quit smoking before you begin radiation therapy, for it can certainly help you with your healing and recovery process.

If you do struggle with alcohol and tobacco addiction, or you don’t know how in the world to quit, there are various means to assist with this. You should go in for counseling to help with both of these if you are struggling. If you can’t find the right resources, do talk to your doctor, tell them about the situations that are befalling you, and before you begin your treatment, do find counsel in this before you start.

Radiation mucositis isn’t fun, but if it does happen, it isn’t terribly long-lasting. However, you should consult your doctor and dentist before getting radiation for any oral and neck cancers. Being able to prevent will save you a lot of headache, especially when you’re trying to prevent this from happening. If it does show up, don’t despair, just make sure you consult your doctor so you can get the ample treatment that you need.


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