A person often first discovers the symptoms of ameloblastoma either because they begin to notice swelling or because they are experiencing discomfort in their teeth or mouth. Many will go to their dentist assuming it is a problem with their teeth or gums. Their dentist will then refer them to their regular doctor. An accurate diagnosis of ameloblastoma can only be found by looking at the tumor cells under a microscope.
After getting the patient’s medical history and the facts behind the swelling or problem that they are having, most doctors will order a biopsy of the tumor’s cells. Looking at the cells under a microscope will reveal that an ameloblastoma is present. If surgery is scheduled a CAT scan is usually done prior to that to give surgeons an idea of the extent and reach of the tumor.
So far the best treatment option for ameloblastoma is surgery and complete removal of the tumor. Unfortunately this often means also having to remove a large margin of surrounding healthy tissue. In other cases complete sections of the patient’s jaw are removed. There is a high rate of recurrence for ameloblastoma so the more they can remove the lower chance of recurrence.
Because of this frequent follow up is recommended for anyone who was treated for an ameloblastoma. Approximately 50% recur within five years after surgical removal.
If parts of a patient’s jaw are removed it can be rebuilt using titanium plates or sometimes parts of bone and cartilage from other parts of the body are used. Bone grafting is also used and this generally leads to a better prognosis. Follicular ameloblastoma tend to recur more often than plexiform.
Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and liquid nitrogen are other forms of treatment that have been tried. These have largely proven ineffective although there is some controversy about this. Some believe that radiation is effective in some cases. Others believe it does more harm than good.