One day in medical clinics, the big picture of a patient’s state of health may be found in little pictures from the mouth, says Li Mao, MD, a new professor at the University of Maryland Dental School.
The mouth or oral cavity area is an excellent indicator of the whole body’s health, says Mao, who is the chair of the new Department of Oncology and Diagnostic Sciences at the School.
Mao recently joined the Dental School to be at the forefront of a movement to retool dental education, he says, to make dentists practice more within the bigger health care community.
Future lung cancer prevention trials, for example, could soon be designed so that surface tissues inside the cheek could be checked to detect tobacco-induced damage in the lungs, according to a study led by Mao last year published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research.
“We hypothesized that tobacco-induced molecular alterations in the oral epithelium are similar to those in the lungs,” says Mao. “This might have broader implications for using the mouth as a diagnostic indicator for general health.” More..