CHICAGO (June 20, 2002) ---- A case report published in the June issue of the Journal of Periodontology provides another reason why abnormalities in the mouth, such as swollen or bleeding gums and oral sores, should be taken seriously.
"We have been hearing more about various health concerns lately, but one important area that is often overlooked is the mouth," said Kenneth Bueltmann, D.D.S., president of the American Academy of Periodontology. "It is important for patients to have regular oral exams to not only maintain oral health, but to identify possibly risks for serious medical conditions."
The 2000 Surgeon General's Oral Health Report published recommends a thorough oral examination to detect signs of nutritional deficiencies as well as a number of systemic diseases, including microbial infections, immune disorders, injuries and some cancers.
The case report published in the Journal of Periodontology describes how excessive swollen gums, fatigue and weight loss experienced by a 53 year-old man lead to the diagnosis of acute myelomonocytic leukemia. The patient consulted his dentist regarding abrupt gingival inflammation throughout the mouth. The dentist referred him to a periodontist who took a biopsy, which revealed leukemia. Blood tests confirmed the findings and chemotherapy treatment was administered.
"Oral health professionals, especially periodontists, should be aware that enlarged gums may represent an initial manifestation of an underlying systemic disease, such as leukemia or diabetes, and they should collaborate with health providers for diagnosis," said Dr. John Fantasia, chief, division of oral pathology, department of dental medicine at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center.
He continued, "In fact, many patients see their dentist more often than their physician, thus oral health professionals should conduct a thorough examination of the mouth to identify potential abnormalities."