This information has been written for patients, their families and friends and the general public to help them understand more about a rare benign (non-cancerous) tumour known as ameloblastoma. This section will detail what an ameloblastoma is and how ameloblastomas can be diagnosed and treated.

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What is ameloblastoma?

Ameloblastoma is a rare, benign, tumour of the bone which can occur in the lower or upper jaw bone. Ameloblastoma can appear to be solid or cyst-like. It is very common for this tumour to occur around the position of the third molar tooth (known as the wisdom tooth). Ameloblastomas grow from the cells which give rise to the enamel (outer layer of the teeth). These tumours occur most frequently in the lower jaw bone (known as the mandible), with approximately 80% of reported ameloblastomas occurring here. The remaining 20% of cases occur in the upper jaw bone (known as the maxilla), or present in both the mandible and the maxilla simultaneously(1).

It is important that this non-cancerous tumour is diagnosed early in order to prevent its excessive growth, bone destruction and invasion into soft tissues surrounding the jaw and possible progression to a cancerous tumour.

Ameloblastoma is very rare in Europe, America & Australia. it tends to be more common in Asian and African continents.

Although ameloblastomas tend to be slow-growing, non-cancerous tumours, they can occasionally become aggressive and affect tissues surrounding the jaw area, such as the floor of the mouth, tonsil area, sinuses or eye-sockets as well as nerves and blood vessels. We describe this behaviour as ‘locally aggressive’, which can cause swelling and bone destruction at the site of the ameloblastoma. As this tumour type originates in the tissues that give rise to teeth, bone destruction can result in some facial distortion(2,3).

Statistically, only 1% of all jaw tumours are ameloblastomas and in most cases the growth is benign (non-cancerous) and non-metastatic (they do not spread). The risk of the tumour spreading to other areas of the body is very low, at less than 2%, but if spread does occur it is most likely to be to the lungs, the lymph nodes, the brain or the skin(1,4,5).

The spread of an ameloblastoma to elsewhere in the body can occur over a decade after treatment has taken place, and unfortunately, this rare tumour type has a relatively high risk of the tumour returning at a later date; this is known as tumour recurrence.