Genetic and developmental disorders of the oral mucosa: Epidemiology; molecular mechanisms; diagnostic criteria; management

Periodontol 2000. 2019 Jun;80(1):12-27. doi: 10.1111/prd.12261.


A large number of disorders may affect the oral cavity, including genetic diseases, infections, cancers, blood diseases, skin diseases, endocrine and metabolic disorders, autoimmune and rheumatologic diseases, local lesions, to name a few. Oral mucosa shows a considerable variation in its normal structure and a wide range of conditions may affect it. Such conditions are often harmless or minor and could be primary or secondary to systemic disease. Several of them are quite rare and, hence, the diagnosis is not easy. Clinically, lesions may appear as ulcers, discoloration of the oral mucosa and alterations in size and configuration of oral anatomy. Genetic disorders have specific manifestations and can be caused by a derangement of one or more components of the tissue. Many of them follow the skin or systemic signs of the underlying genetic disease, but in a few cases oral signs could be the first manifestation of the disorder. Among them genodermatoses are prominent. They are inherited disorders characterized by a multisystem involvement. This review describes chondro-ectodermal dysplasia, dyskeratosis congenita, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, hereditary benign intraepithelial dyskeratosis, keratosis follicularis, lipoid proteinosis, multiple hamartoma syndrome, pachyonychia congenita, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, tuberous sclerosis and white sponge nevus. Other genetic disorders not included in the genodermatosis group and reported in the present review are: acanthosis nigricans, angio-osteo-hypertrophic syndrome, encephalotrigeminal angiomatosis, familial adenomatous polyposis, focal dermal hypoplasia, focal palmoplantar and oral mucosa hyperkeratosis syndrome, gingival fibromatosis, Maffucci's syndrome, neurofibromatosis (type 1) and oro-facial-digital syndrome (type 1). Disorders during embryonic development might lead to a wide range of abnormalities in the oral cavity; some of them are quite common but of negligible concern, whereas others are rare but serious, affecting not only the oral mucosa, but also other structures of the oral cavity (ie palate, tongue and gingiva). Fordyce's granules, leukoedema, cysts of the oral mucosa in newborns, retrocuspid papilla, geographic tongue, fissured tongue, median rhomboid glossitis, hairy tongue, lingual varices and lingual thyroid nodule are described. This review may help dentists, dental hygienists, but also general internists and pediatricians to diagnose different disorders of the oral mucosa, to understand the pathogenesis and to schedule a treatment plan.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mouth Diseases*
  • Mouth Mucosa*