David R. Dean, DDS, MSD

Director, Oral Medicine Service
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
Director, Department of Oral Medicine Graduate Program; Clinical Assistant Professor
University of Washington School of Dentistry
“SCCA is one of the few places in the country that offers oral medicine care for people before, during and after cancer treatment. I feel really lucky to be able to offer these services to patients.”
— Dr. Dean
Why do you care for patients with oral problems associated with cancer and treatment?

Early in my career, the spouse of a close family friend was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. She and her husband reached out to me a few times during and after her treatment with questions about the oral side effects she was experiencing. I realized that a lot of people who go through cancer treatment, particularly stem cell transplantation, have no oral care support outside of what they receive in the hospital. Once treatment is over, many people don’t have anyone to help them deal with the oral problems that crop up, and these issues can significantly interfere with quality of life. Talking with my friend and his wife helped crystallize for me that this was a real area of need — and where I wanted to focus my efforts. SCCA is one of the few places in the country that offers oral medicine care for people before, during and after cancer treatment. I feel really lucky to be able to offer these services to patients. 

Side effects A problem that occurs when treatment affects healthy tissues or organs. Some side effects of cancer treatment are nausea, vomiting, fatigue, pain, decreased blood cell counts, hair loss and mouth sores. Stem cell A cell from which other types of cells develop. For example, blood cells develop from blood-forming stem cells.
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What advice do you often offer patients?

I like to remind people how important it is to communicate with their medical team. You can never ask too many questions. We’re here not only to take care of your health but also to make sure that all aspects of your diagnosis and treatment make sense to you. In oral medicine care, we tend to prescribe a lot of topical medications; sometimes this can seem overwhelming, or perhaps these very medicines have failed to work well for you in the past. I encourage people to speak up if what I’m recommending doesn’t seem like a good fit so that we can work together on finding a solution that meets your needs.   

Provider background

Oral complications of cancer and treatment

As the director of SCCA’s Oral Medicine Service, I treat patients with oral complications of cancer and treatment. I frequently work with people who undergo hematopoietic (blood-forming) stem cell transplantation, providing pre-transplant dental evaluations and helping to manage post-transplant, mouth-related issues, such as mucositis and oral graft-versus-host disease. I also assess a variety of oral concerns for patients at SCCA who receive other forms of treatment. Many cancer therapies can cause changes in the mouth that accelerate tooth decay, which can compromise a person’s dentition if left untreated. 

My current area of research involves studying the long-term oral effects of chronic graft-versus-host disease. This post-transplant condition can occur when donor immune cells perceive the recipient’s cells as foreign and attack them. Another area of interest is exploring how to prevent or minimize oral infections post-transplant. In addition to caring for patients and conducting research, I teach graduate students at the University of Washington and lead national and local continuing education workshops. 

Graft-versus-host disease A condition that occurs when donated stem cells or bone marrow (the graft) see the healthy tissues in the patient’s body (the host) as foreign and attack them. Stem cell A cell from which other types of cells develop. For example, blood cells develop from blood-forming stem cells.

Diseases treated

Education, experience and certifications
Undergraduate Degree
University of Washington
Medical Degree
University of Washington School of Dentistry
Board Certification
American Board of Oral Medicine, Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh
Other
Master of Science in Dentistry, Oral Medicine, University of Washington
Languages
English
Awards
Seattle Met's Top Dentists award
Bruce R. Rothwell Distinguished Teaching Award

As a faculty member of the University of Washington School of Dentistry, Dr. Dean received this award in 2016 in recognition of his innovative and distinguished approach to teaching.

Research

Clinical trials

We make promising new treatments available to you through studies called clinical trials led by SCCA doctors. Many of these trials at SCCA have led to FDA-approved treatments and have improved standards of care globally. Together, you and your doctor can decide if a study is right for you.

Publications

Many of our SCCA physicians conduct ongoing research to improve standards of patient care. Their work is evaluated by other physicians and selected for publication to the United States National Library of Medicine, the largest medical library in the world. See scientific papers this SCCA provider has written.

Your care team

At SCCA, you receive care from a team of providers with extensive experience in your disease. Your team includes doctors, a team coordinator, a registered nurse, an advanced practice provider and others, based on your needs. You also have access to experts like nutritionists, social workers, acupuncturists, psychiatrists and more who specialize in supporting people with cancer or blood disorders.
Registered nurse (RN)
Registered nurse (RN)
Your nurse manages your care alongside your physician and assists with care procedures and treatments.
Patient care coordinator
Patient care coordinator
Your patient care coordinator works closely with you and your physician and serves as your scheduler.

Insurance

SCCA accepts most national private health insurance plans as well as Medicare. We also accept Medicaid for people from Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. We are working to ensure that everyone, no matter what their financial situation, has access to the care they need.