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An ossifying fibroma can be one of two different types of tumor, or growth. In some cases it may be what is called a peripheral ossifying fibroma. This is a growth that appears inside the mouth as a small lump on the gum. These growths are most frequently seen in adolescents but they can occur at any age and they are not cancerous. The other type of ossifying fibroma, known as a central ossifying fibroma, develops in the leg bones and, although it is not cancerous, it can interfere with a child's growth.
Peripheral ossifying fibroma is a fairly common oral pathological condition, or disorder of the mouth. While the cause is not fully understood, it is thought that hormonal changes could play a part in its development. This would explain why the growth is most often seen in teenage girls. Gum irritation is another factor associated with the development of this kind of fibroma. This could result from a build-up of plaque or damage from a dental procedure or prosthetic device.
A peripheral ossifying fibroma usually grows on a section of gum between two teeth. The size and appearance can vary, but typically the tumor is not very large. A fibroma can be pink or red, with a rough or smooth surface, and it arises from a thin stalk or a wide base. Commonly, the growth appears to have an open sore, or ulcer, on its surface and it grows quite slowly.
In appearance, ossifying fibromas may be difficult to distinguish from other oral neoplasia, or mouth tumors, some of which are cancerous. For this reason, doctors will usually take a small sample of the growth and analyze it to make a definite diagnosis. An ossifying fibroma is typically treated by surgical removal. Even when the fibroma has been cut out surgically, the growth will sometimes recur.
The other kind of ossifying fibroma, which grows in the leg bones, usually affects children in the first ten years of life. It causes swelling of the bone and sometimes creates a bowed leg. A child with the condition may also walk with a limp, and the bone may fracture. When possible, the tumor is treated using surgery to remove it completely, but it can recur. As ossifying fibromas are known to disappear by themselves when some children reach adolescence, surgery is sometimes delayed to give a tumor the chance to resolve.