Also called odontogenic tumors and cysts, these typically benign lesions develop in the jawbone or the soft tissues in the mouth. They vary in severity.
Jaw tumors and cysts are relatively rare growths or lesions that develop in the jawbone or the soft tissues in the mouth and face. Jaw tumors and cysts — sometimes referred to as odontogenic or nonodontogenic, depending on their origin — can vary greatly in size and severity. These growths are usually noncancerous (benign), but they can be aggressive and expand, displace or destroy the surrounding bone, tissue and teeth.
Treatment options for jaw tumors and cysts vary, depending on the type of growth or lesion you have, the stage of growth, and your symptoms. Mouth, jaw and face (oral and maxillofacial) surgeons can treat your jaw tumor or cyst usually by surgery, or in some cases, by medical therapy or a combination of surgery and medical therapy.
A tumor is an abnormal growth or mass of tissue. A cyst is a lesion that contains liquid or semisolid material. Examples of jaw tumors and cysts include:
If you're concerned that you may have symptoms of a jaw tumor or cyst, talk with your primary care provider or dentist.
Many times, jaw cysts and tumors do not have symptoms and are typically discovered on routine screening X-rays done for other reasons. If you are diagnosed with or suspected of having a jaw tumor or cyst, your primary care provider can refer you to a specialist for diagnosis and treatment.
Odontogenic jaw tumors and cysts originate from cells and tissues that are involved in normal tooth development. Other tumors that affect the jaws can be nonodontogenic, meaning that they can develop from other tissues within the jaws that are not related to the teeth, such as bone or soft tissue cells. Generally, the cause of jaw tumors and cysts is not known; however, some are associated with gene changes (mutations) or genetic syndromes.
People with nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome, also called Gorlin-Goltz syndrome, lack a gene that suppresses tumors. The genetic mutation that causes the syndrome is inherited. This syndrome results in the development of multiple odontogenic keratocysts within the jaws, multiple basal cell skin cancers and other characteristics.
To gather more information about your jaw tumor or cyst, your health care provider may recommend tests prior to treatment. These tests may include:
Your health care provider uses this information to put together a treatment plan that's best for you and the most effective option for treating your tumor or cyst.
Treatment options for jaw tumors and cysts vary, depending on the type of lesion you have, the lesion's stage of growth and your symptoms. Your treatment team also considers your treatment goals and your personal preferences when making a treatment recommendation.
Treatment of jaw tumors and cysts generally involves surgical care. In some cases, treatment may be medical therapy or a combination of surgery and medical therapy.
During surgery, your surgeon removes your jaw tumor or cyst, which may include removing nearby teeth, tissue and jawbone, and sends it to the lab for examination. A pathologist examines the removed tissue and reports a diagnosis during the procedure so that the surgeon can act on this information immediately.
Other treatments may include:
Long-term follow-up exams after treatment can address any recurrence of jaw tumors and cysts. Identifying recurrence early is important so they can be treated appropriately.