HBOT for Mouth Related Radiation Damage and Infections (Radionecrosis)

HBOT for Mouth Related Radiation Damage and Infections (Radionecrosis)

Radiation treatments, in addition to killing the cancer, can damage a patient’s adjacent healthy tissues and bones. This damage often appears slowly and can show up many years after the cancer is gone.

The radiation will affect healthy gums and tissues, causing painful sores that can get infected, damage the teeth so they die or break off at the root, or even loosen teeth enough so they fall out. In severe situations, the radiation causes enough bone death in the jaw bones that they can break, requiring extensive surgical intervention and reconstructive surgery.

At Bay Area Hyperbarics, we have seen hundreds of patients with radiation damage. They arrive often having lost teeth, and often having lost too much weight because it is painful to eat. At times, patients experience no pain at all, but their dentist referred them to an oral surgeon because of a tooth problem, and the oral surgeon then referred the patient to us. Oral surgeons often refer patients to us prior to extracting a tooth.

Radiation can also cause fibrotic tissue to form, which hardens and makes it hard for a patient to open their mouth. At times, patients find difficulty even chewing their food.

The good news is that hyperbaric oxygen therapy stops the ongoing damage from radiation. More broadly, HBOT halts the loss of additional teeth and prevents worsening of the symptoms such as bone loss, infections, skin and gum sores. Secondly, oxygen therapy heals by stimulating bone cells to reproduce rapidly. It grows new tiny blood vessels, which feed healthy new cells and tissues. It also causes new stem cells to grow and migrate to damaged areas. When the bone regrows and has enough integrity, it can again anchor the teeth and if a tooth is not dead or too badly damaged, the bone can then nourish and retain the tooth.

Can HBOT Stimulate Cancer?
Some people worry that if HBOT stimulates cell reproduction, that it might also do the same with cancer cells? It is a thoughtful concern, which is why there have been many researchers and published studies by oncologists and others, who have show HBOT does not affect cancer cells or tumors. That means that HBOT will not stimulate cancer recurrence or growth. They wrote “the conclusion in both reviews was that HBO did not promote cancer growth, and that the use of HBO in patients with malignancies was considered safe. Target Oncol. 2012 Dec; 7(4): 233–242.

There are some studies that show when treating head and neck radiation injuries with HBOT, there can be a reduction in cancer recurrence. The hypothesis from these researchers is that HBOT repairs the damaged mitochondria in some precancerous and damaged cells. This has not been studied enough for us to know if this is true, and so we await additional studies.
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There is research on multiple conditions related to Mouth Related Radiation damage. Which one would you like to view?

How Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Treats Radiation Damage
  • Save loosened teeth by stabilizing the integrity of the bones that hold your teeth
  • Regrows healthy bone and gums by stimulating new bone, and tissue cells to grow
  • Heals gums, skin, the tongue and mouth, so it doesn’t hurt to eat or brush your teeth
  • Heals infections and supercharges antibiotics
  • Softens fibrous connective tissue, which tightens and makes it difficult to open the mouth

Patients’ Experiences

Howard, 74-year-old patient
Howard, 74
Stabilized teeth, healed his mouth sores and increased weight to a healthy level.
Howard had very painful open sores in his mouth as a result of cancer treatment. He had already lost a few teeth, and he and his doctor were concerned that he might lose more. But what worried his son even more was that Howard had lost too much weight. Fortunately for Howard, HBOT stabilized two loose teeth and healed his mouth sores. His ability to chew again then enabled him to eat enough that he returned to a healthy weight.
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Fiona, a 62-year-old patient
Fiona, 62
HBOT cured a bone infection, regrew her bones and gums and helped her regain her energy.
Fiona, a lively and proud mother of five grown children and an avid gardener, had received radiation many years prior to her arriving at Bay Area Hyperbarics, that emerged as damage to her bone. It caused a severe infection in the bones in the roof of her mouth. In addition, Fiona was concerned about her low energy levels. Before HBOT, Fiona's doctors had tried antibiotics, to no avail. But with HBOT and antibiotics together, it cured the bone infection in her mouth, and healed and regrew her bones and gums. She said she also got back enough energy that she could again garden.
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Josephina, 61-year-old patient
Josephina, 61
Radiation damaged circulation in her mouth, threatening her teeth. HBOT saved her teeth.
Josephina, a 61-year-old woman, lived and took care of an elderly friend half the year on the coast of Oregon. She is a quiet spoken, thoughtful woman who had cancer in her mouth 18 years prior to coming in for hyperbaric oxygen therapy. The radiation that was used to treat her cancer many years before was very successful. However, she went to her dentist and complained of her tooth feeling loose. The radiation had started to damage the circulation in her mandible and her gums. Her tooth had died and her dentist wanted to remove it. Her dentist also thought that she had two other teeth that were threatened as well.

Josephina was sent to an oral surgeon who diagnosed osteoradionecrosis, which is death of the bone due to radiation injury. The blood vessels in the jaw start to die off due to radiation damage. When this happens the bone can get very fragile and sometimes fracture which creates a much bigger problem including a long and difficult recovery. So to avoid this, and prior to taking out her tooth, her surgeon sent her for hyperbaric treatments. The Marx protocol was used which included 20 treatments prior to removing the tooth to revascularize and thus strengthen the jaw. After removing the tooth Deborah returned for the remaining 10 more session to insure the bone heals up properly. In her case, Josephina was fortunate that the bone was strengthened with hyperbarics prior to more teeth dying. Indeed, she was pleased that she did not lose any further teeth. Two years later she came back to visit and say hello. She still had all the rest of her teeth.
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Lisa St John, Clinic Director, Jeffrey Kaplan, Medical Director, Laura Jean, RN

Lisa St John, MS, Clinic Director, Jeffrey Kaplan, MD, Medical Director and Laura Jean, RN, Director of Patient Care

Need to know more? Talk to our experts today.

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Have a conversation with our experts, to see how HBOT could help you, and to schedule an appointment.

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We’re woman-owned and the longest running
independent hyperbaric clinic in the country.

We’re woman-owned and the longest running independent hyperbaric clinic in the US.

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Our highly experienced physicians and technicians have provided over 70,000 treatments since we opened our doors in 1998.

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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is a painless, relaxing and non-invasive treatment. Our patients often tell us they feel relaxed and alert after their treatment.

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