When you think about a dentist's role in caring for your health, you probably think more of prevention and treatment. But sometimes a dentist's education and experience can lead him or her to observe and diagnose certain diseases even when they aren't specific to your teeth. Gardner syndrome, for example, mainly affects the colon, but some of its most obvious signs can be easily detected by a dentist or orthodontist. By knowing what it means to detect Gardner syndrome teeth and how they might affect your oral health, you'll get a better grasp on how the syndrome spreads and its outlook.
What Is Gardner Syndrome?
Gardner syndrome isn't a cancer, but a familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). These conditions cause cancer through the growth of hundreds to thousands of benign polyps in the colon and rectum. Over time, these polyps can become cancerous tumors, which, according to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center, means a person with Gardner syndrome is more likely to experience early-onset cancer at an average age of 39.
Gardner syndrome is caused by a genetic mutation that reduces your body's ability to suppress tumor growth. Cell growth increases, resulting in benign polyps that can become cancerous tumors. It can both be inherited and result in new genetic mutations, but it does bear mentioning that a pregnant person with Gardner syndrome has a 50 percent chance of passing the mutation onto her child.
Dental Abnormalities & Gardner Syndrome: How The Dentist Can Help
If Gardner syndrome is a colorectal issue, how can your dentist give you clues that lead to your diagnosis? One of the more common symptoms of Gardner syndrome actually presents itself in dental abnormalities; according to the International Journal of Medical Sciences, 30 to 75 percent of Gardner syndrome patients have some type of dental abnormalities, and 68 to 82 percent suffer from osteomas, or bony masses (bony tumors). These bony masses are most likely to affect the jaw. Some of the dental abnormalities associated with Gardner syndrome include:
- Unerupted or impacted teeth
- Carious (cavity-prone) teeth
- Fused molars
- Bony growths on the jaw bone
While one of these symptoms doesn't automatically point to Gardner syndrome, several at the same time, along with your family history, may lead your dentist to determine that you have the syndrome. Because your dentist is familiar with your mouth and your history, they may be one of the first to suggest you talk to your doctor.
Gardner syndrome isn't diagnosed via oral clues alone, but talking to your dentist about symptoms is a great first step. Your health care team can compare symptoms with your family history and radio imaging to correctly diagnose Gardner syndrome and create a treatment plan.
What's the Outlook?
If it's known that Gardner syndrome runs in your family, your health care provider may have already suggested a treatment plan to help detect cancer as early as possible, starting with 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. If detected, benign polyps are often watched carefully. Treatments for malignant tumors include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
As for your oral health, your dentist can help address some of your symptoms, such as filling cavities or even removing impacted teeth. Colgate Total Daily Repair toothpaste can also be used to prevent cavities. Bony growths can be removed for cosmetic reasons, so talk to your doctor if you're self-conscious.
Oral health is often a good indicator of your total body wellness, and Gardner syndrome teeth are a great illustration of that concept. 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.