Professionals complications

The links on this page lead to information that is intended mainly for use by dentists, doctors and other health care professionals, who need more detail and scientific references.

What causes trismus?

Trismus is caused by damage to the muscles used for chewing. During surgery, trauma, or radiation therapy there is commonly secondary damage to the areas around the tumor site. As this damage heals, the body forms scar tissue at the site. As this scar tissue ages it becomes less flexible. These changes result in the limited jaw motion that is identified with trismus. The Christie Hospital NHS Trust in Manchester has recently published the results of 5 year’s clinical research looking into the use of the hand operated device which fits inside a patients’ mouth, Therabite® versus wooden spatulas in the improvement of Trismus, (any restriction of mouth opening), in head and neck cancer patients. They presented their findings to the British Association of Head and Neck oncologists in May 2016. 

The aim of this study was to examine whether prophylactic jaw exercises using the Therabite® or wooden spatulas, (lollipop sticks stacked in a patients mouth), will relieve or prevent tightening of the jaw following radiotherapy. All patients had some sense of jaw tightening prior to the study. Measurements of jaw opening were taken pre and post radiotherapy. Compliance with the daily exercise regime, quality of life and health economics were addressed in this study. 37 patients used the Therabite® and 34 the wooden spatulas.  

Results showed that mouth openings had increased on average in both groups following the exercise intervention, proving that exercises with either wooden spatulas or Therabite® can help to maintain and increase mouth opening through radiotherapy treatment and beyond. Without exercises the mouth opening would most likely decrease. 

Click on the link to the right to see the full Trismus Study by the Christie Hospital NHS Trust

Cochrane Review

Interventions for preventing oral mucositis or oral candidiasis for patients with cancer receiving chemotherapy (excluding head and neck cancer). From The Cochrane Library, Issue 1, 2002.

Cochrane Review
Interventions for treating oral mucositis for patients with cancer receiving treatment. From The Cochrane Library, Issue 1, 2002.

Nausea and Vomiting (PDQ®): Supportive Care - Health Professionals

Prevention and control of nausea and vomiting are paramount in the treatment of cancer patients. Despite advances in pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic management, nausea and vomiting remain 2 of the more distressing and feared side effects to cancer patients and their families. This article provides a detailed understanding of the problem for health professionals.

Oral Complications of Cancer Treatment: What the Oral Health Team Can Do

With more and more new cases of cancer diagnosed each year, and the shift to outpatient management, it is likely that you will see some of these patients in your practice. Because cancer treatment can affect the oral tissues, you need to know about potential oral complications. Moreover, preexisting or untreated oral disease can complicate cancer treatment. Your role in patient management can extend benefits beyond the oral cavity.

Oral Complications of Cancer and Cancer Therapy

Oral complications are common in cancer patients, especially those with head and neck cancer. These articles describe oral complications caused by chemotherapy and radiation therapy and various methods of prevention and treatment. The information on oral complications of cancer and cancer therapy is written for health professionals by cancer experts, from the National Cancer Institute.