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 or 50s.

Despite being benign, 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 the lungs.

Ameloblastoma is the most common type of odontogenic lesion.

  • Teamwork. At Mayo Clinic, ear, nose and throat specialists work with other specialists, such as medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, oral surgeons and plastic surgeons, to form a multidisciplinary team to care for people with ameloblastoma. Other professionals are included as needed.
  • Experience. Ameloblastoma is a rare tumor. Mayo Clinic doctors have experience treating many cases of ameloblastoma.
  • A full range of treatment options to consider. Mayo Clinic doctors will work with you to review all of your treatment options and choose the approach that best suits your needs and goals. The range of treatments offered to people with ameloblastoma includes surgery to remove the tumor and reconstructive surgery to restore the ability to speak and to eat, if needed. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy may be options in certain situations.

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., ranks #1 for ear, nose and throat in the U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals rankings. Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., is ranked among the Best Hospitals, and Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., is ranked high performing for ear, nose and throat by U.S. News & World Report.

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At Mayo Clinic in Arizona, ear, nose and throat specialists work with experts in plastic and reconstructive surgery, pathology, radiation oncology, and oncology to care for people with ameloblastoma. Other experts are included as needed.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 800-446-2279 (toll-free) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

At Mayo Clinic in Florida, ear, nose and throat specialists work with experts in plastic surgery, pathology, radiation oncology and oncology to care for people with ameloblastoma. Other experts are included as needed.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 904-953-0853 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

At Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, ear, nose and throat specialists work with experts in oral and maxillofacial surgery, plastic surgery, pathology, radiation oncology, and oncology to care for people with ameloblastoma. Other experts are included as needed.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 507-538-3270 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

See information on patient services at the three Mayo Clinic locations, including transportation options and lodging.

Ameloblastoma sometimes causes pain and swelling in the jaw, but often it causes no signs or symptoms. It may be discovered on a routine dental X-ray.

To gather more information about the tumor and make a diagnosis, doctors may recommend tests and procedures such as:

  • Imaging tests. Imaging tests, such as X-ray, CT and MRI, help doctors determine the extent of an ameloblastoma.
  • Removing a sample of tissue for testing. A biopsy is a procedure to remove a sample of tumor cells for laboratory analysis.

Mayo Clinic pathologists are known for their expertise in analyzing and diagnosing rare tumors. Pathologists examine biopsy samples to determine what types of cells are involved in the tumor and whether the cells are noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). Your doctor uses this information to put together a treatment plan that's best for you and the most effective option for treating your tumor.

Which treatment is best for your ameloblastoma depends on several factors. Your doctors will consider your tumor's size and location, as well as the type and appearance of the cells involved. Your treatment team also considers your treatment goals and your personal preferences when making a treatment recommendation.

Treatment options may include:

  • Surgery to remove the tumor. The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor and a thin margin of healthy tissue that surrounds it. Ameloblastoma often grows into the nearby jawbone, so oral and maxillofacial surgeons remove the affected portion of this bone. An aggressive approach to surgery reduces the risk that ameloblastoma will recur.
  • Surgery to repair the jaw. If surgery involves removing a portion of your jawbone, reconstructive and plastic surgeons will repair the jaw. Surgeons work to restore your ability to eat and speak, as well as to improve the appearance of your jaw.
  • Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy may be recommended in certain situations, such as in the case of a large tumor or one that shows signs of cancer. Radiation therapy may reduce the risk of the tumor recurring. When a tumor can't be removed with surgery, radiation therapy may be the only treatment.
  • Supportive care. A variety of professionals will work with you to help you maintain your quality of life during and after treatment for ameloblastoma. At Mayo Clinic, these professionals may include dietitians, speech therapists, swallowing therapists, physical therapists, and specialists who make artificial replacements for missing teeth or other damaged natural structures in the mouth (prosthodontists).

Mayo Clinic doctors and researchers are studying ways to improve diagnosis and treatment of ameloblastoma. Learn more about ear, nose and throat research.

Publications

See a list of publications by Mayo Clinic authors on ameloblastoma on PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine.

Mar. 18, 2013