Ameloblastoma is a rare kind of tumor that starts in your jaw, often near the third molar teeth or other molars. It consists of cells that form the outer layer of the tooth i.e. enamel which protects the teeth. This tumor can cause pain, swelling and can change the appearance of the face. If it goes untreated for a long time, it may become cancerous and migrate to the lymph nodes or lungs which can cause severe problems.
These tumors of jaw usually grow slowly over many months to even years. The only symptom that may appear is the swelling or inflammation in the back side of the affected jaw. There might be tooth or jaw pain associated with swelling.
Some people don’t experience any kind of symptoms. It’s mostly noticed when they go for an x-ray imaging or any scan of the jaw for some other reason.
Occasionally, ameloblastomas grow quickly and cause pain. This can uproot or can move the teeth present in the affected region. They also can spread to nose, eye socket, or skull leading to severe problems.
In rare cases, the ameloblastoma can grow so large that they can even block the airway, making it difficult to open and close the mouth, or also affect the nutrition intake by the body from the consumed food.
There is no certain cause for ameloblastoma or for what reason certain people get affected with them. These are more common in men than in women, and certain genes seem to play important role in the cause.
An injury to the jaw due to road-traffic accidents or an infection in your mouth also might raise the risk for ameloblastoma cause. Few scientists believe that some viruses or a lack of protein or minerals in diet may be linked to them as well.
Dentists often spot these tumors only on X-rays in which the ameloblastomas look like soap bubbles on film. They also can be diagnosed with the following scans
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) which uses powerful magnets and radio waves to make images of the oral cavity and the jaws.
- CT (computerized tomography) scan in which several X-rays are taken from different angles and put together to show more detailed information to confirm the case.
The doctor may take a small sample of tissue to look at under a microscope which is called as biopsy. To take the sample, they’ll use a needle or make a small cut at the affected area to collect the infected tissue along with some normal tissue. And it can confirm it as an ameloblastoma and help in determining the rate at which it is growing.
Drugs and radiation therapy for ameloblastoma don’t seem to have much effect on most non-cancerous types, so they’re usually treated mostly with surgeries. To make sure the tumor cells don’t grow back or recur, the doctor will take out the tumor along with some of the healthy tissue around it.
Sometimes a part of the jaw may be removed, as well as some of the arteries and nerves that may affect the face. Your doctor will recommend surgery to re-create your jaw using bone from the other sites in your body or artificial bone. You also may need rehabilitation or physiotherapy training to learn how to smile and chew food again.
After surgery, you’ll have a CT scan to make sure the tumor is completely removed and there are no remnants left which can cause recurrence. You should have follow-up scans for the next 5 years or so to examine the recurrence of the tumor.
If a tumor does recur, it’s more likely to become cancerous. If it spreads to other parts of your body, radiation therapy or chemotherapy is usually recommended to slow down or stop the growth.