So, your dentist told you that you have a compound odontoma. It might sound scary, but this growth is treatable. Your dentist can sometimes detect these tumors with routine dental X-rays, and many of them don't actually cause harm. Learn more about what these growths are, the different types that can develop and what treatment your dentist may recommend.
What Are Odontomas?
Firstly, odontomas are noncancerous oral tumors, as an article in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology explains. They are rare, and they do not spread or cause further harm. These abnormal growths replicate surrounding tissues in the mouth that comprise teeth, such as enamel, dentin, cementum and pulp tissues. According to an article in the West Indian Medical Journal (WIMJ), odontomas grow slowly, and in some rare cases, they can erupt into the oral cavity.
As the WIMJ article notes, odontomas are the most common type of odontogenic tumor. While they're more likely to occur around the ages of 14 to 18 years, they can develop at any age. Odontomas are also slightly more common in females, and they typically appear in the upper jaw. The cause of odontomas is unclear, but they have been associated with trauma, infection and inflammatory processes affecting the jaws during childhood. People with certain genetic conditions, such as Gardner syndrome and Hermann's syndrome, may also be more prone to odontomas. In 80% of cases, the tooth associated with the odontoma is impacted, meaning that it hasn't erupted from the gums.
Complex vs. Compound Odontomas
There are two types of odontomas: complex and compound.
A compound odontoma has a tooth-like structure and is arranged in a uniform manner, similar to a normal tooth, while a complex odontoma has a mixed structure of disorganized tissue mass, according to the WIMJ article. Compound odontomas are twice as common as complex odontomas, and they often appear as a collection of small teeth on a dental X-ray. There have also been cases where patients have had multiple compound odontomas, as a report in the Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research explains.
Diagnosis and Treatment
A dental professional can diagnose odontomas by examining X-rays of a patient's jaw. While these lesions are benign, they may be treated conservatively with minor surgery if needed, as the WIMJ article notes. Tumors that are surgically removed usually will not reoccur. If a patient experiences no symptoms and the tumor is not stopping the teeth from erupting into the correct position, simply monitoring the odontoma may be an option, explains a study in the National Journal of Integrated Research in Medicine.
Your dentist, in combination with a specialist or an oral maxillofacial surgeon, will guide you on your treatment options and ensure you are in safe hands.
Odontomas can be revealed on routine X-rays at your dental office — but remember, a tumor doesn't always mean cancer, and treatment is not always required. Seeing your dentist regularly will ensure not only that your teeth and gums are checked for health, but that your head and neck are, too! This is why these checkups, as well as regular dental X-rays, are paramount to good oral and overall health.