It’s a fascinating fact: A dentist or orthodontist can detect medical conditions that concern your overall physical health. Such is the case with Gardner syndrome, which affects your colon and other organs. Some of its early signs, though, show up in your mouth and jaw.
Gardner Syndrome Teeth: How Your Dentist Can Help
What Is Gardner Syndrome?
Gardner syndrome is a rare type of genetic mutation called adenomatous polyposis (FAP), according to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center. FAP reduces your body's ability to suppress tumor growth. This inability leads to the development of hundreds to thousands of polyps in the colon, small intestine, and rectum. The onset of these polyps might begin around age 20.
As cell growth increases, benign polyps can become cancerous tumors. There's a risk of developing colorectal cancer between the ages of 30 and 50. Plus, a risk exists for cancers affecting other digestive organs, endocrine organs, bile ducts, and the central nervous system.
How Can Dentists Help Recognize Gardner Syndrome?
Early clues of Gardner syndrome are childhood dental abnormalities exposed through dental screenings. These are sometimes known as Gardner's syndrome teeth or Gardner syndrome jaw.
These irregularities might signal the future growth of osteomas – benign bony tumors – on the skull, including the jawbone. Osteomas usually develops during puberty, notes research published in a journal from the European Institute of Oncology and the Organization of European Cancer Institutes.
Dental abnormalities indicating potential osteomas and Gardner syndrome include:
- Congenital missing teeth
- Impacted teeth
- Extra teeth
- Retained baby teeth
- The premature eruption of permanent teeth
- Dentigerous cysts
- Hypercementosis (excessive calcified tissue buildup on a tooth's roots)
- Odontomas (tumors of dental tissue growing in irregularly)
- Unusually long or fused roots
No single symptom automatically points to Gardner syndrome. But several dental abnormalities at the same time – especially if there is a family history of the syndrome – is a cause for concern.
Detecting these abnormalities usually results in a dentist or orthodontist referral to a primary care physician for further tests.
Gardner syndrome isn't diagnosed via oral clues alone. But talking to your dentist about symptoms is a great first step.
What Are the Next Steps?
After detecting dental abnormalities or other early symptoms, your health care team will monitor the development of osteomas and Gardner syndrome polyps. If polyps are identified early enough through testing, your doctor will design a treatment plan before any malignancy develops.
Of course, if Gardner syndrome runs in your family, your doctor probably already suggested a treatment plan to help detect cancer as early as possible. This plan might include starting colonoscopies at age 10 to 12 and continuing every one or two years. At age 25, your doctor may suggest you have an upper endoscopy every one to three years.
Treatments for malignant tumors include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
If you have a family history of Gardner syndrome, you might opt for genetic counseling before or during pregnancy.
As for your oral health, your dentist can help address some of your symptoms, such as filling cavities or removing impacted teeth.
Surgeons can remove any bony growths on your skull.
Oral health is often a good indicator of your total body wellness. And Gardner's syndrome dental issues are a great illustration of that concept.
By keeping up with your regular dental appointments and talking to your dentist about changes or concerns you might have, you could detect potential health issues. And get treatment – potentially life-saving treatment – early.
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.