Jaw Tumors and Cysts

Cysts and tumors can occur in and around the jaw and structures of the teeth. These include benign tumors and cysts, which are non-cancerous; those that are aggressive and growing, with the potential to become cancerous; and tumors that are malignant, meaning that they are cancerous.

Because the mouth and jaws are composed of many different types of tissues, such as bone, muscle, glands and mucosa (the tissue that covers the cheeks, lips and gums), they are more susceptible to developing abnormal growths than other parts of the body.

Although tumors and cysts of the jaw can affect anyone, a number of risk factors have been identified that increase a person’s chance of developing them. The main risk factors are:

  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Irritation caused by ill-fitting dentures
  • Rough surfaces on teeth
  • Poor nutrition

Fortunately, changes inside the mouth are often easily seen and detected. If you notice something abnormal or new in your mouth, you should contact your doctor immediately.

Signs and symptoms of jaw tumors and cysts include the following abnormalities, which are located in or around the jaws or structures of the teeth:

  • Reddish patches, called erythroplasia
  • Whitish patches, called leukoplakia
  • A sore that does not heal and bleeds easily
  • A lump or thickening of the tissues
  • Chronic sore throat or hoarseness
  • Difficulty in chewing or swallowing

Treatment will depend on whether your tumor or cyst is benign or malignant. Surgical treatments aim to remove the tumor or cyst. In addition to surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy also may be recommended for treatment if your tumor is cancerous.