"It can be confusing for both patients and for dentists who receive referrals for patients prior to these medical interventions, as what actually should be done is not exactly clear," said Ruth Lipman, Ph.D., senior director of evidence synthesis and translation research. "In these cases, clinicians are hoping to reduce the risk of specific complications, including infective endocarditis with cardiac valve surgery, osteoradionecrosis of the jaw bone with head and neck cancer radiation therapy, and oral or systemic infection with organ transplantation."
ADASRI scientists, together with panels of dental and medical experts, conducted systematic reviews that failed to demonstrate a definitive benefit of dental care before cardiac valve surgery or head and neck cancer radiation therapy, based on available scientific literature. Because a systematic review for organ transplantation would likely encounter the same issues, the researchers did not conduct one.
"These resources are necessary because to a hammer, everything looks like a nail," Dr. Lipman said. "Of course, maintaining good oral health is the best situation to be in, no matter what a person faces in life. But for those who have not had access to dental care in the past, delaying medical intervention to address long-standing dental issues, especially when dental care is not readily available, is likely not a prudent decision."