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A holistic approach to cancer therapy

Dr. Kenneth A. Bolin
Dr. Kenneth A. Bolin, associate professor in public health sciences, in the dental clinic at the Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center at Dallas' Outpatient Oncology Clinic.

Bolin heads up dental clinic at cancer center

Patients undergoing cancer therapy have a new dental ally in the form of Dr. Kenneth A. Bolin, associate professor in public health sciences at Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry.

Bolin was named medical director of the dental clinic at the newly opened Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. He is encouraged that physicians and oncologists are embracing a holistic approach to caring for patients undergoing cancer therapy, something dentists have advocated for years.

Bolin and his staff — a dental hygienist and an X-ray technician — provide care before, during and after cancer treatment to prevent or minimize the severity of the effects of chemo and radiation therapy.

“Pre-chemo and pre-radiation patients come to the clinic for evaluations so any hidden infections can be treated and we can head-off problems with xerostomia [dry mouth] for patients receiving radiation for the head and neck,” Bolin said.

Before the Sammons Cancer Center's dental clinic opened, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston was the only cancer center in Texas offering a full range facility that included dentistry.

Bolin credits Dr. Gil Triplett, Regents Professor in oral and maxillofacial surgery, for being instrumental in helping convince the cancer center planning team to include a dental component in the overall scope of treatment, rehab and support for cancer patients. The dental clinic additionally serves transplant and cardiac surgery patients referred by hospital physicians and can be vitally important for optimal patient outcomes.

“Uncontrolled dental diseases can lead to significant infections,” said Triplett, “and patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation for cancer treatment frequently have sores in the mouth that are painful and interfere with eating and nutrition.”

Triplett said when he suggested the dental clinic, the planning team was open and receptive to the idea, sought out information from other centers and even visited the program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

When it came time to select a medical director for the dental clinic, Triplett believes Bolin’s experience and background made him a good choice.

“He had expressed an interest in the center several years ago and had excellent credentials in this field,” Triplett said. “He had served a two-year residency in the dental service at M.D. Anderson and had maintained an interest in the field since then.

”In his role, Bolin is responsible for establishing treatment guidelines for different patients, developing referral networks, managing the public relations between the dental clinic and the other oncology departments and serving as the liaison between the clinic and different services patients may require.

One of his community outreach plans included an Aug. 13 head and neck cancer screening event at the cancer center. For more information on future events, call 214-820-3535.