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Gardner Syndrome Teeth: How Your Dentist Can Help

When you consider the dentist's role in caring for your health, you probably think more about prevention and treatment. Sometimes a dentist's education and experience help them diagnose certain diseases, even ones not specific to your teeth. Gardner syndrome, for example, mainly affects the colon, but a dental professional can detect some of its most obvious signs. Because early diagnosis is critical for successful treatment, regular oral exams can help identify Gardner syndrome teeth and improve your treatment results. Learn more about the role of oral health in patients with Gardner syndrome.

What Is Gardner Syndrome?

Gardner syndrome is a rare genetic disease known as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) that is primarily characterized by hundreds to thousands of benign growths, or polyps, in the colon and rectum. Over time, these polyps can become cancerous tumors, putting those with Gardner syndrome at high risk for colorectal cancer.

FAP affects one in 8,300 to one in 14,000 newborns, according to ecancermedicalscience. The Genetic and Rare Diseases Center states that, on average, Gardner syndrome patients begin developing polyps around age 16, leading to early-onset colorectal cancer at an average age of 39.

What Causes Gardner Syndrome?

A genetic mutation in the adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) gene causes Gardner Syndrome. This gene produces the APC protein, which regulates cell growth and prevents cells from dividing too fast or too much. As a result, the mutation reduces the body's ability to suppress tumor growth. Gardner syndrome can be either inherited or the result of a new genetic mutation. Researchers do not know what causes the mutation.

Dental Abnormalities and Gardner Syndrome

With Gardner syndrome, tumors are most commonly found in the colon. However, the disease can cause growth in areas all over your body. These can include fibromas, fluid-filled cysts under the skin, and eye lesions on the retina. One of the more common symptoms of Gardner syndrome presents itself in dental abnormalities. According to an article in the Journal of Dentistry, around 30 to 75 percent of Gardner syndrome patients have dental abnormalities, including

  • Unerupted or impacted teeth
  • Carious (cavity-prone) teeth
  • Fused molars
  • Bony growths on the jawbone

While one of these symptoms does not automatically point to Gardner syndrome, several simultaneously — along with your family history — might necessitate further tests. Dentists do not diagnose Gardner syndrome by oral clues alone, but because they are familiar with your oral history, they might be the first to suggest you talk to your doctor. Your health care team can compare symptoms with your family history and radiographic imaging to correctly diagnose Gardner syndrome and create a treatment plan.

What's the Outlook?

If you know Gardner syndrome runs in your family, your health care provider has probably started monitoring for symptoms to help detect cancer as early as possible. This starts with colonoscopies at age 10 to 12, continuing every one or two years. At age 25, your doctor might suggest an upper endoscopy every one to three years. If detected, benign polyps are carefully observed. Once multiple high-risk polyps are found, doctors might recommend removing the colon to prevent cancer.

As for your oral health, your dentist can help address some of your symptoms, such as treating cavities or even removing impacted teeth. Bony growths can be removed for cosmetic reasons, so talk to your doctor if you feel self-conscious.

Oral health is often a good indicator of your total body wellness, and Gardner syndrome teeth provide a great illustration of the connection between your mouth and body. By keeping up with your regular dental appointments and talking to your dentist about any changes or concerns you might have, you could detect potential issues. It's just another way your dentist contributes to your overall health.

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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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