Grant to Support Dental Care for Head and Neck Cancer Patients

Dentistry Today


The HNC Living Foundation renewed its support for the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) School of Dentistry’s dental care program for head and neck cancer (HNC) patients with a grant of $325,000 over two years.

Based in Overland Park, Kansas, the nonprofit foundation provides financial assistance for HNC patients to improve their treatment, recover, and quality of life. Tom and Teresa Walsh founded it in 2013 after Teresa was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in her jawbone. 

The HNC Living Foundation also collaborates with other local institutions including Cancer Action, Truman Medical Centers, Turning Point, and the University of Kansas Health System to help HNC patients live full during and after cancer treatment.

The collaboration between the foundation and the UMKC School of Dentistry began in 2016 when Chris Uithoven, executive director, and Mary Walker, DDS, PhD, associate dean for research and graduate programs, began discussing how to improve access to dental care for HNC patients in the Kansas City area. 

Walker’s background includes federally funded research focused on understanding the mechanism of radiotherapy-induced dentition breakdown, so she was familiar with the oral and dental complications associated with HNC radiotherapy treatment. 

These complications are especially debilitating for patients’ quality of life, as traditional medical insurance typically does not cover pre-cancer and post-cancer dental treatment. That’s why the foundation’s financial assistance to patients who normally would not be able to afford dental treatment is truly life-changing, the foundation says. 

In January 2017, the foundation granted the UMKC School of Dentistry $225,900 to provide dental care for uninsured and underinsured HNC patients referred to the Advanced Education Clinic at the school from any regional medical center. It included coverage for dental care prior to starting cancer therapy and follow-up ongoing dental care after cancer therapy. 

The partnership expected reductions in oral complications and decreases in the cost of care and pain prevention. Additional outcomes resulted in improvements in quality of life and the likelihood that the patient would successfully complete planned cancer treatment.

The funds from the initial grant made it possible for 167 patients with HNC to receive dental care at the UMKC School of Dentistry between January 2017 and June 2018. The new grant will benefit between 200 and 225 patients, making it possible to provide both new and returning patients with essential dental care from well trained clinicians, the school reports.

Related Articles

Seven Tips to Help You Discuss Oral Pharyngeal Cancer With Your Patients

Dental Care May Benefit Patients Scheduled for Cancer Surgery

E-Cigarettes Linked to Increased Risk of Oral Cancer