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Childhood Cancer Survivors at Risk for Tooth Decay
February 20, 2013

By Nancy Volkers
InteliHealth News Service

INTELIHEALTH - Children who had chemotherapy in the past are more likely to have tooth decay and poor oral hygiene habits at age 12, a study suggests.

This study was done in Hungary. It looked at 12-year-old cancer survivors. There were 38 children in the study. All had received chemotherapy at some point between ages 2 and 6.

Their average age at cancer diagnosis was between 4 and 5 years of age. None had radiation therapy or stem-cell transplants. These children were compared with 40 children of similar age and socioeconomic status who had never been treated for childhood cancer. Children in both groups received dental exams.

Childhood cancer survivors:

  • Had more decayed permanent teeth that had not been filled
  • Had worse oral hygiene
  • Were more likely to have malformed tooth roots or permanent teeth that never developed

The authors say that the increased tooth decay appears to be caused by poor oral hygiene, rather than an effect of chemotherapy. Other studies have found similar results.

Other studies also have reported defects in tooth development as side effects of chemotherapy during early childhood. Most permanent teeth develop in the jaw between ages 2 and 6. This is the same time period the children received chemotherapy.

The authors say that childhood cancer survivors should be considered at high risk for tooth decay. They suggest that dietary changes after chemotherapy may affect their risk of decay.

The study appears in the February issue of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology.

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