Although it's unlikely that you'll ever be diagnosed with one, an odontoma is one of the more common forms of noncancerous oral tumors. Some professionals consider this tumor a type of dental hamartoma, which is an abnormal tissue growth that replicates the surrounding tissue. Odontomas are made of the tissues that comprise teeth, such as enamel, dentin, cementum and pulp tissue, and they often form in the jaw during tooth development, according to a review in the West Indian Medical Journal.
Types of Odontomas
Odontomas are usually small, though sometimes they can grow larger, and they generally cause no symptoms, as outlined by the review in the West Indian Medical Journal. There are two main types of odontomas, which your dentist will be able to identify based on an X-ray:
ComplexA complex odontoma is an unorganized mass of dental tissue. A study in the Nigerian Journal of Clinical Practice reports that this type occurs more often in the second and third molars of the lower jaw.
CompoundA compound odontoma resembles a collection of small teeth. These odontomas occur more frequently in the upper jaw and often affect teeth in the front of the mouth, reports the West Indian Medical Journal review.
Diagnosis and Symptoms
These tumors can develop in patients of any age but are most common in teens and young adults in their twenties, according to the West Indian Medical Journal review. They appear slightly more frequently in women.
Because odontomas are commonly asymptomatic, they are most often found through routine X-rays taken by your dentist, explains the study in the Nigerian Journal of Clinical Practice. Both types appear as masses with transparent halos, and the shape will help the dental professional classify it as either complex or compound.
Some patients may experience pain, swelling or tooth displacement because of the tumor, notes the West Indian Medical Journal review. Approximately 80 percent of cases are associated with teeth that haven't yet erupted, so often a patient may have teeth that haven't yet broken through the gums. Odontomas are benign, meaning noncancerous, and they generally do not grow back once removed.
According to the study in the Nigerian Journal of Clinical Practice, dental professionals typically choose to remove odontomas if they cause symptoms or interfere with the normal eruption of teeth. This would typically be accomplished by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon in consultation with the patient's general dentist. Because odontomas are often associated with unerupted teeth, your dental team may also choose to extract the associated tooth when removing the odontoma if the tooth is not developing properly, according to a report in the Journal of Dental Implants. If needed, the patient can discuss tooth replacement options with their dental team. Orthodontic treatment may also be necessary to help address the proper alignment of teeth following the removal of an odontoma.
The healing process is generally uneventful, and the patient can expect to return to their dental professional for follow-up visits, as noted in the Journal of Dental Implants report. If you're diagnosed with an odontoma, know that your dental team can help you get the treatment you need. Along with a good oral care routine, regular dental X-rays will allow your dentist to diagnose any dental health issues early on.