Although ameloblastoma is a fairly rare condition, it can be very serious. Affecting the odontogenic epithelium, an ameloblastoma tumor occurs on the outside portion of the teeth. Normally occurring close to the third molar, an ameloblastoma tumor or cyst can grow in size rapidly.
While an ameloblastoma tumor can be cancerous, they are normally benign. Furthermore, if a malignant ameloblastoma tumor occurs, they are not normally metastatic, which means that they are unlikely to spread to other parts of the body.
However, if a benign or malignant ameloblastoma tumor occurs, it can cause severe abnormalities of the face and jaw. In extreme cases, the growth of an ameloblastoma tumor can obstruct the airways and make it difficult for patients to breathe.
Due to this, treatment is normally required in cases of benign tumors, as well as those that are malignant.
Although chemotherapy treatment or radiation can be used to treat an ameloblastoma tumor, these are not normally the most appropriate course of action. While the tumor rarely metastasizes, it can affect surrounding tissue. Often resulting in large growths, surgeons generally find that surgical excision is a more effective form of treatment.
Unfortunately, an ameloblastoma tumor can reoccur and patients may require additional treatment. However, the likelihood of recurrence can be reduced if surgery is performed effectively.
In addition to excising the ameloblastoma tumor, surgeons may also cut away some the healthy tissue in the surrounding area. This helps to reduce the chances of the tumor infiltrating the tissue and, therefore, may prevent it from growing in the area again.
Although studies have been undertaken, the cause of ameloblastoma is still not clear. Similarly, scientists have yet to determine why some ameloblastoma tumors become malignant while others don't.
However, it is possible that injury to the mouth or jaw could precede an ameloblastoma tumor. In addition to this, it is possible that infections or inflammation in the gum could cause a tumor to grow. Some scientists believe there is a link between the presence of a tumor and a lack of essential proteins, vitamins and minerals but this has yet to be definitively proven.
Due to the rapid growth of an ameloblastoma tumor, it is normally easy for physicians to make a diagnosis. If ameloblastoma is suspected, the diagnosis can be confirmed via x-rays or MRI scans.
However, there are a number of other disorders and conditions which could be mistaken for ameloblastoma. Hard odontoma, for example, is a tumor of dental origin. Although similar to ameloblastoma, they can often be differentiated by the way they spread. Hard odontoma tends to spread directly, while an ameloblastoma tumor normally increases by infiltrating other areas in the mouth.
Similarly, an osteosarcoma may also be confused with an ameloblastoma tumor prior to diagnostic imaging tests. While they may present in a similar fashion, an osteosarcoma originates in the bone, rather than in dental tissue.
Finally, physicians will want to rule out the possibility of globulomaxillary cysts before confirming an ameloblastoma tumor is present. Generally situated between the teeth, globulomaxillary cysts can cause gaps between the teeth and may result in the teeth growing in different directions. Although effective treatment may result in tooth loss, the cysts can normally be drained or removed fairly easily.
Although these conditions may present in a similar fashion in their early stages, a physician should be able to differentiate between the diseases, particularly if they are well-established. However, diagnostic testing should be carried out as quickly as possible.
Once tests have confirmed the presence of an ameloblastoma tumor, treatment should be arranged as quickly as possible. If a biopsy is to be performed, a treatment plan may be finalized once the presence of cancer has been determined.
In cases of benign ameloblastoma tumors, surgery can effectively remove the tumor prior to disfigurement occurring. However, it's vital that there is no delay in treatment. Swift growth of the tumor will, inevitably, cause further complications and the sinuses and oral airways are likely to be affected.
In addition to this, a delay in determining whether the ameloblastoma tumor is malignant could result in cancer spreading or worsening. By providing a swift diagnosis and treatment plan, surgeons can effectively remove an ameloblastoma tumor and reduce the likelihood of the condition recurring.