If your physician tells you you have an ameloblastoma, what does that mean? Read on to learn more about this odontogenic tumor and how you and your doctor should proceed.
What Is It?
Ameloblastomas are odontogenic tumors. Odontogenic means it arises from the normal tissues found in the mouth. It is for the most part a rare tumor that was first identified in 1827, according to the European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology. The location is predominately the lower jaw, also known as the mandible, but it can be found in the upper jaw or maxilla. It can also sometimes be found in the soft tissues surrounding the jaws. The area in the lower jaw most involved tends to be the posterior regions. It may or may not be associated with impacted third molars.
There is no known etiology for this tumor. It is usually benign, but can be malignant. However, although benign, it is extremely aggressive and destructive. It tends to affect people between 30 and 60 years old, though it appears in older and younger individuals, as well.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
An ameloblastoma is usually painless. The only symptom may be a swelling in the area. It is usually only identified on radiographic examination in a dental office. The early developing lesion does not displace teeth or cause numbness, so the patient may not know there is a tumor growing in one of the jaw bones. If a potential lesion is identified on a dental radiograph, more elaborate imaging is required. This will include a CAT scan and possibly an MRI. The diagnosis can not be solely determined by imaging. It requires a biopsy to make the final diagnosis. Cysts will sometimes appear similar to the ameloblastoma on the imaging.
This particular odontogenic tumor, even if benign, can have a high rate of recurrence with additional destruction, including creating metastatic lesion to areas like the lungs. The recurrence, in rare incidences, may be fatal. Radiation treatment and chemotherapy are not typically successful in eradicating this tumor.
Aggressive surgery is the only treatment to remove the lesion and prevent recurrence. The procedure requires removing the healthy bone surrounding the tumor so that no tumor cells are left behind to allow it to regrow. Because the surgery must be performed aggressively, teeth will be extracted and extensive hard and soft tissue plastic surgery reconstruction may be necessary. In the upper jaw after the surgery, there may be an opening into the sinuses that requires the patient to wear a special denture known as an obturator.
To keep your oral and overall health in good shape, visit your dentist and physician regularly for oral cancer evaluations. Also, keep a watchful eye when you brush twice daily with a toothbrush like the Colgate 360° toothbrush. Its multi-functioning bristles help to clean in between teeth and along the gum line. If you or your health care provider spot any abnormality, they can begin treatment before the problem evolves into a serious condition.