What Is Odontoma and What Can You Do About It?
We can all agree that tumors can be scary and painful, especially if they are cancerous. In fact, cancer is so commonly associated with tumors, that most people think about it the second they hear the word tumor. There are other types of tumors, such as odontoma, that can occur in your mouth. Actually, according to research, odontoma is so common that it constitutes 22% of all odontogenic tumors that you might experience. But while odontoma is benign and is not as dangerous as other tumors, it still requires surgical removal. From the initial cone beam CT scan to surgery, we are going to take a look at odontomas and find out all you need to know about them.
What Is Odontoma?
Odontoma is a benign tumor that is usually linked to tooth development. To be more specific, odontoma is a dental hamartoma that is made out of dental tissue that has grown in an abnormal way. Because of that, odontomas most commonly occur in the first and second decade of life during teeth development.
Additionally, due to its fast growth, odontoma can affect nearby teeth and prevent their development. As a result, odontoma can cause gum infections and teeth loss, depending on the area it developed. That’s why most dentists recommend surgery as soon as odontomas start growing.
What Causes Odontoma?
There are many theories and studies that point toward different causes and triggers of odontoma. Studies suggest that odontomas occur due to growth pressure triggered by the inadequate spacing between teeth. That might explain why odontoma is so common among teenagers or people that still have unerupted teeth.
Other studies state that infections and trauma to developing teeth accelerate the growth of abnormal cells. Those cells can develop in tumors in a matter of a few months and quickly disrupt nearby teeth. Besides that, genetics can play a role in the occurrence of odontomas in young adults as a result of gene mutations.
But no matter their cause, odontomas are common among teenagers and young adults that still have developing teeth.
Types of Odontoma
Although there are many types of tumors that can develop in similar areas, dentists believe that there are two types of odontoma. The main difference between the two is the age when it occurs and the composition of the tumor. It’s also important to mention that both types of odontomas affect women and men equally.
- Compound Odontoma: Mostly occurs during the teenage years and can be found in the lower jaw. The tumor is made out of many tiny tooth bits and can cause misalignment to nearby teeth.
- Complex Odontoma: Can occur during your 20s and is usually found in the upper jaw. The tumor consists of all sorts of dental tissue such as enamel, dentin, and pulp.
Because odontoma is an internal tumor that grows around teeth, an X-ray is necessary to identify it. And while most people are asymptomatic, there are a few signs that you might be dealing with an odontoma:
- Tooth Movement
It’s worth noting that most people that have odontomas have teeth that have not yet erupted. In other words, if you experience any of the symptoms above and have unerupted teeth, then you could have an odontoma.
What Can I Do About Odontoma?
If you believe that you are dealing with an odontoma or any kind of tumor, you should visit your dentist as soon as possible. They will take an X-ray or CT scan of your face, as seen in this video, in order to confirm the diagnosis. Then, depending on the state of the tumor, your dentist will have to consult with an oral surgeon regarding the removal procedure.
Even though you might experience no pain or discomfort, removing odontomas is mandatory. That’s because odontomas can grow and affect more teeth than they do initially. However, the procedure is painless and quick, so you will be back on your feet in no time.
Additionally, if the affected teeth are not developing correctly, then your dentist may have to extract them. That’s done in order to reduce the risk of other odontomas occurring later on. Without proper treatment, not only will you lose the affected teeth but you can also develop further infections. You should also discuss tooth replacement options with your dentist to prevent alignment issues.
After Surgery Healing Tips
After the surgery, you will have to follow some tips to speed up the healing process. Besides that, the following tips might allow you to avoid further odontomas or similar tumors.
- Proper Oral Hygiene: Brushing your teeth at least twice a day is mandatory, as it prevents post-surgery infections. You should also floss your teeth to remove any pieces of food that can reach the incision.
- Soft and Cold Meals: Since your gums are more sensitive after the surgery, you need to stick to soft and cold meals for at least a few days. That way, you will allow your gums to heal faster than they normally would.
- Avoid Physical Exercise: Most dentists recommend that you avoid all physical exercise for at least 48 hours after surgery.
- Pain Relief Medication: If you experience pain or discomfort after surgery, you can take most pain relief medications. But while there are no risk factors when using pain medication, you should still ask your dentist for advice.
- Regular Dentist Visits: Checking with your dentist at least twice a year should allow you to discover odontomas as early as possible. Additionally, dentists will be able to supervise the healing of your gums and give further recommendations.
Overall, odontomas are some of the most common dental tumors that you can experience throughout your lifetime. And while tumors can sound dangerous and scary, odontomas can be treated easily thanks to years of medical advancements. However, it’s important to contact your dentist as soon as you experience any pain or discomfort in your mouth. The sooner you discover an odontoma, the lower your chances of losing any teeth are.
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