Although it's a colon disease, your dentist may be the first to suspect Gardner syndrome based on the findings of a routine dental exam or dental x-rays. Symptoms typically include impacted (unerupted) teeth, missing teeth, extra teeth, or osteomas (benign tumors) in the jaw or other craniofacial bones. About 30 percent of individuals diagnosed with Gardner syndrome have one or more of these dental abnormalities.
About Gardner Syndrome
Gardner syndrome is a rare disorder that causes polyps to develop in the lining of the colon and throughout the small intestine. In addition to the more obvious teeth and mouth problems, bowel polyps can develop as early as childhood and adolescence.
An inherited condition caused by a mutated gene, Gardner syndrome can affect multiple areas in the body. Besides intestinal polyps, there also is the chance you may develop small cysts on the skin of your face and neck, and noncancerous tumors in the abdominal wall or jawbone. In some cases, benign bony tumors (osteomas) grow at the base of the skull. Depending on where they grow, osteomas can lead to trouble eating and talking.
Why Early Detection Is Important
If you have Gardner syndrome, you are at increased risk of developing colon cancer. Although colon polyps generally aren't a serious health problem, some colorectal polyps become cancerous. But since you don't always experience symptoms, colon cancer can be life-threatening if not detected until the disease is in the later stages and the malignancy has spread.
Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial as the type, number, and size of polyps determine your cancer risk. Currently, there is no cure, but removing polyps and conducting regular screening for individuals at high risk for the disease can reduce the risk of cancer. Larger polyps put you at greater risk of developing cancer and, if left untreated, Gardner syndrome almost always leads to colorectal cancer, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
What Your Dentist Can Do
Dentists who notice dental abnormalities common in Gardner syndrome should refer patients for additional medical screening to make a diagnosis. Although a surgeon trained to perform colon surgery must treat colon polyps, a dentist like one from HC Dentistry or an oral surgeon can remove impacted or extra teeth the disease causes. Extra teeth may be irregular in shape, which can cause a bite problem as well as a cosmetic dental problem. Impacted teeth often cause inflammation, which may lead to pain and infected gums.
Although osteomas tend to grow slowly, they can develop in individuals at any age. While you may experience no other symptoms, large osteomas can cause swelling. This makes one side of your face look different from the other side. An oral surgeon removes the lesions by surgical excision.