ADAA View Course


The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2014 there will be over 1.5 million new cases of cancer in the United States alone. Many cancer patients are unaware that cancer treatment can affect the oral tissues, and that visiting their dentist should be an integral step in the treatment of the disease. Oral complications can affect patients undergoing treatment for cancer. The dental team must be able to treat, educate, and support these patients. Open communication must exist between the patient, the dental team, and the radiation and/or oncology team. This course will provide the dental team members with information about potential oral complications and how these potentially serious problems can be prevented or managed. The dental team’s role in patient management can extend benefits beyond the oral cavity.

Oral complications from radiation to the head and neck or chemotherapy for any malignancy can seriously compromise health and quality of life, as well as affect the ability to complete planned cancer treatment. Moreover, pre-existing or untreated oral disease can complicate cancer treatment. The complications can be so debilitating that patients may only tolerate lower and less effective doses of therapy, may postpone scheduled treatments, or may have to discontinue treatment entirely. Mucositis is the number one reason for the interruption of chemotherapy and head and neck radiation protocols. Oral complications also can lead to potentially life-threatening systemic infections. In 54 percent of cancer patient deaths from infection, the causative organism is from the oral cavity. Medically necessary oral care prior to, during, and after cancer treatment can prevent or reduce the incidence and severity of oral complications, enhancing both patient survival and quality of life.


Members of the 2001-2002 ADAA Council on Education originally developed this course. All members of the Council on Education are ADAA Active or Life Members with an interest in dental assisting education. Each one volunteers their time to the lifelong learning of dental assistants.
The 2016-2017 ADAA Council on Education updated this course.


Upon completion of this course, the dental professional should be able to:

• Describe the oral complications related to chemotherapy and radiation therapy
• Differentiate which patients are high risk or low risk for oral complications
• Discuss the importance of oral care prior to, during, and following cancer treatment
• List the steps which should be taken during the pretreatment evaluation
• Discuss the advice which should be given to patients during the pretreatment evaluation
• Explain the special considerations needed for bone marrow/stem cell transplant patients and for children
• Outline the importance of communication between the entire cancer care team


The ADAA has an obligation to disseminate knowledge in the field of dentistry.  Sponsorship of a continuing education program by the ADAA does not necessarily imply endorsement of a particular philosophy, product or technique.

The ADA cautions participants taking this course on the hazards of using limited knowledge when integrating new techniques into their practices.

Credits earned upon completion of the course may be used to meet DANB’s Recertification Requirements.


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