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Cancer therapies in childhood can damage developing teeth

Cancer treatment therapies administered before stem cell transplantation can damage children's permanent teeth, according to researchers writing in a recent issue of the journal Cancer.

A research team from Finland studied 52 children treated for cancer or aplastic anemia who had received stem cell transplantation preceded by high-dose anticancer chemotherapy at 1 to 9.4 years of age. They wanted to determine how many of these children lacked permanent teeth or had microdontia (one or more teeth of smaller than normal size) as well as the frequency of poorly developed dental roots.

They found that 31 percent of the subjects lacked permanent teeth (versus 8 percent of the Finnish population), after excluding wisdom teeth. Lack of permanent teeth was most frequent among subjects who were younger than 3 years at the time of stem cell transplantation.

They also found that subjects who received high-dose anticancer chemotherapy alone lacked permanent teeth nearly as often as subjects who received the therapy in combination with total body irradiation. Subjects who had received total body irradiation, however, had a slightly increased number of missing teeth.

The subjects also had a high frequency of microdontia (44 percent versus 2 percent of the Finnish population). Microdontia was common among subjects younger than 5 years at the time of stem cell transplantation. All subjects who received high-dose anticancer chemotherapy when they were younger than 3 years had microdontia.

Researchers found developmental aberrations in dental roots of all the subjects. Some had minor changes visible in only a few teeth, while others had severe damage in all teeth. Total body irradiation increased the number of damaged roots. Subjects who had received only high-dose anticancer chemo-therapy had root damage in more than one-half of their teeth, but the damage was not as severe as in subjects who also had received total body irradiation.

To learn more about cancer therapies and their effect on oral health, visit the American Dental Association Web site at “”.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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