Structural Analysis of Enamel in Teeth from Head-and-Neck Cancer Patients Who Underwent Radiotherapy

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Objective: To analyze macroscopic, microscopic, and ultrastructural aspects of enamel from head-and-neck cancer patients submitted to radiotherapy. Materials and Methods: Twenty sound extracted permanent molars were used and divided into 2 groups. The experimental group consisted of 10 molars from head-and-neck cancer patients submitted to radiotherapy with total doses that ranged from 50 to 70 Gy. Ten molars from patients who did not receive radiotherapy were matched with experimental-group samples by anatomic tooth group and comprised the control group. To perform a macroscopic analysis, standardized photos of different enamel faces were taken with a camera. Teeth were subjected to longitudinal cuts and hand polished to a final thickness of 0.1 mm. Enamel was analyzed under polarized light microscopy, and optical retardation values of birefringence were calculated in cervical, cusp, and occlusal pit areas. Subsequently, the same enamel areas were analyzed by scanning electron microscopy. Data from optical retardation values were statistically analyzed by 2-way ANOVA and Fisher's test (α < 0.05). Results: No macroscopic differences were observed between the irradiated and control groups. Polarized light microscopy analysis revealed that cervical enamel exhibited darker areas characterized by discrete birefringence patterns compared to the control enamel. Optical retardation values were only significantly different in the cervical enamel of the irradiated and control groups (p < 0.0001). Scanning electron microscopy analysis revealed more evident interprismatic spaces in the cervical and outer cusp enamel of irradiated samples. Conclusions: Head-and-neck radiotherapy reduced optical retardation values of birefringence in cervical enamel, and the interprismatic spaces became more evident.

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