Ameloblastoma is a rare, noncancerous (benign) tumor that develops most often in the jaw near the molars. Ameloblastoma begins in the cells that form the protective enamel lining on your teeth.
Ameloblastoma occurs in men more often than it occurs in women. Though it can be diagnosed at any age, ameloblastoma is most often diagnosed in adults in their 40s through 60s.
Ameloblastoma can be very aggressive, growing into the jawbone and causing swelling and pain. Very rarely, ameloblastoma cells can spread to other areas of the body, such as the lymph nodes in the neck and lungs.
Ameloblastoma signs and symptoms include pain and swelling in the jaw. Often it causes no symptoms.
Ameloblastoma diagnosis might begin with tests such as:
- Imaging tests. X-ray, CT and MRI scans help doctors determine the extent of an ameloblastoma. The growth or tumor may sometimes be found on routine X-rays at the dentist's office.
- Tissue test. To confirm the diagnosis, doctors may remove a sample of tissue or a sample of cells and send it to a lab for testing.
Ameloblastoma treatment may include:
- Surgery to remove the tumor. Ameloblastoma treatment usually includes surgery to remove the tumor. Ameloblastoma often grows into the nearby jawbone, so surgeons may need to remove the affected part of the jawbone. An aggressive approach to surgery reduces the risk that ameloblastoma will come back.
- Surgery to repair the jaw. If surgery involves removing part of your jawbone, surgeons can repair and reconstruct the jaw. This can help improve how your jaw looks and works afterward. The surgery can also help you to be able to eat and speak.
- Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy using high-powered energy beams might be needed after surgery or if surgery isn't an option.
- Supportive care. A variety of specialists can help you work through speaking, swallowing and eating problems during and after treatment.
After treatment, you'll likely have regular follow-up appointments for several years.