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Jaw Tumors and Cysts

An Overview of Jaw Tumors and Cysts

Jaw tumors and cysts may appear as swelling in the jaws, which may be asymptomatic. If present, they may enlarge and can produce an aching sensation and/or swelling in the area. In certain areas, the swelling can apply pressure to nerves that can produce numbness, tingling or other sensations. There are many different types of cysts and tumors that occur in the head and neck.

Depending on the location and type of jaw tumor or jaw cyst, treatment can range from “watchful waiting” to removal. Often this will result in involvement of surgical dental specialists, which may include oral surgeons, periodontists, and endodontists. Frequently a pathologist will be called upon to evaluate tissue samples from removed jaw tumors and cysts, to make a definitive diagnosis about the type, severity, and prognosis following removal.

How does the dentist diagnose Jaw Tumors and Cysts?

Note: ToothIQ.com contains general information. Only a dentist can properly diagnose your specific condition.

The dentist will evaluate any suspicious growth in the oral cavity or jaw bones:

  • The teeth and gums in the area of swelling are examined to rule out infections or other tooth/gum related problems.
  • If the jaw tumor or jaw cyst is in the bone, and produces bony changes, these are generally evident on X-ray images (radiographs) or Cone Beam CT scans (if performed). Sometimes the radiograph provides the first sign of a cyst or tumor, and sometimes it is used to more closely examine a swelling that has been noticed by the patient and reported to the dentist.
  • In the absence of clinical or radiographic findings, a period of 7 to 10 days may be allowed to see if the swelling will resolve on its own. If it does not, or if it gets worse, further diagnostic steps are taken.
  • The dentist may perform (or refer you for) a biopsy procedure, which involves surgically harvesting cells from the suspected cyst or tumor and submitting the tissue to a pathology laboratory for microscopic evaluation and diagnosis of cell type.
  • Once the growth has been identified as a jaw tumor or jaw cyst, it may or may not be removed—depending on many factors.

How are Jaw Tumors and Cysts treated?

Frequently jaw tumors and cysts are removed surgically if removal is deemed necessary. However, certain tumors which are located near vital organs, major blood vessels, or nerves may need to be treated another way. Your dentist can tell you the most appropriate way to proceed if you’ve been diagnosed with a jaw tumor or jaw cyst.

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Author: Thomas J. Greany, D.D.S. / Editor: Ken Lambrecht

This page was last updated on March 6, 2018.

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