A 51-year-old man, who has not been to the dentist for nearly 30 years, must have his entire jaw removed
A man who had not been to the dentist for nearly three decades because he was too scared had to have his jaw removed and is no longer able to eat, drink or talk properly.
Darren Wilkinson, 51, was found to have a fist-sized tumor in his jaw when he finally came for a check-up.
He had been terrified of seeing the dentist for 27 years, but had gathered the courage to visit his dentist last year when he woke up with blood on his pillow.
X-rays showed “a black hole in the center of his face,” so Mr. Wilkinson was sent to the hospital for more tests.
The rescuer was eventually diagnosed with ameloblastoma, a rare, benign bone tumor that mainly affects the lower jaw – it was not cancer.
Mr Wilkinson lives with his wife Mel, 53, in Sheffield, who said her husband has been left as a ‘drooling baby’ since his surgery in April.
51-year-old Darren Wilkinson, who had not been to the dentist for nearly three decades, had his jaw removed and is no longer able to eat, drink, or talk properly (pictured in the hospital)
Mister Wilkinson has been diagnosed with ameloblastoma, an extremely rare condition that can lead to a benign tumor. Pictured: scans showing the affected jaw bone
The rescuer was diagnosed with an ameloblastoma, an extremely rare and usually benign tumor that affects the jaw bone. He is depicted during a race
Mr Wilkinson lives with his wife Mel, 53, in Sheffield, who said: ‘We were told chances were he would get it [an ameloblastoma] is one in five million ‘
Former teacher Ms Wilkinson said, “I have been trying to get him registered with the dentist for years and have finally been able to make him an appointment.
“He was so scared to go to the dentist that he hadn’t been gone for 27 years. He really doesn’t like dentists, but as he went on, he came back white as a sheet. ‘
The family has not revealed why Mr. Wilkinson avoided the dentist, but it is a common fear that has even earned itself the unofficial name of “dentophobia.”
“He had an X-ray with a huge shadow, a black hole in the middle of his face, and the dentist said he had never seen anything like it,” added Mrs. Wilkinson.
“He would wake up i
with blood on his pillow in the morning and very bad breath from time to time. I just thought he wasn’t brushing his teeth properly. ‘
Mr. Wilkinson was referred to Charles Clifford Dental Hospital in Sheffield as an urgent matter.
He had two biopsies – a procedure to take a small sample of tissue for analysis – confirming that the shadow was a “large, locally aggressive tumor.”
Ameloblastoma can be caused by an injury to the mouth or jaw, infections of the teeth or gums, or an unhealthy diet.
However, scientists don’t fully understand what causes the tumors.
The number of people affected is also so small that it is unclear, but it is believed to represent only one percent of all oral tumors, according to the Bone Cancer Research Trust.
Mr. Wilkinson had tests done in December last year, but was only diagnosed at the end of January this year.
Ms. Wilkinson said, “Christmas was hell because we were told it could be a tumor, but we knew from the X-ray that it was the size of a fist.
“He wasn’t allowed to eat anything solid because his jaw was so thin it would just break.
“Getting the diagnosis was absolutely terrible. It is so rare that we were told that the chance of getting it is one in five million. I felt like I was living with a time bomb. ‘
Ms. Wilkinson said her husband has been left as a “drooling baby” since his surgery in April. The couple is an avid runner (pictured previously)
Mr. Wilkinson’s X-ray showed a “huge shadow, a black hole in the center of his face” (photo below). “The dentist said he had never seen anything like it,” said his wife
Mr. Wilkinson’s surgery to remove 90 percent of the lower jaw and most of his teeth was scheduled for March 20. But it was delayed until April because of Covid-19
A week after his surgery, Mr. Wilkinson developed sepsis – when the body’s immune system becomes overloaded due to an infection from attacking healthy tissues – and he needed emergency surgery. He is shown during recovery in the hospital
WHAT IS AMELOBLASTOMA?
Ameloblastoma is a rare, benign condition that causes a bone tumor that usually occurs in the lower jaw, but sometimes also in the upper jaw bone.
It affects people of all ages, ethnicity and men and women equally, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD).
Statistically, only one percent of all oral tumors are ameloblastomas, the Bone Cancer Research Trust reports.
Symptoms include painless swelling in the jaw, bone pain, loose teeth, difficulty speaking, obstruction of the breath and mouth ulcers.
It is very common for the tumor to appear around the wisdom tooth.
The cause of ameloblastoma is largely unknown, and it is difficult to determine because there are so few patients with this tumor.
Ameloblastoma can be caused by an injury to the mouth or jaw, infections of the teeth or gums, or inflammation of the same areas, NORD says.
Infections from viruses or a lack of protein or minerals in a person’s diet are also suspected of causing the growth or development of these tumors.
While there is currently no identifiable cause for ameloblastoma, there are risk factors believed to increase the chance. These include poor oral hygiene.
While ameloblastomas tend to be slow-growing, noncancerous tumors, they can occasionally become aggressive and affect the tissues around the jaw area, such as the sinuses or eye sockets, as well as nerves and blood vessels.
Therefore, it is important to recognize it early to treat it.
Doctors said that Mr. Wilkinson’s tumor should be removed as soon as possible because ameloblastomas can spread to other parts of the skull, such as the eyes or nose or lungs. Although uncommon, ameloblastomas have been known to become cancerous.
Mr. Wilkinson’s surgery to remove 90 percent of the lower jaw and most of his teeth was scheduled for March 20.
But it was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and occurred in April.
Titanium plates were placed where his jaw was to hold Mr. Wilkinson’s face together.
The metal frame is attached to the remains of its jaw and hopefully it will encourage the bones to regrow. Surgeons also plan to use bone grafts from his leg to rebuild his mouth.
For three months, Mr. Wilkinson was passed through a tube in his nose and through the stomach. It was replaced last week by a PEG feeding tube straight through his stomach into his stomach.
A week after his surgery, Mr. Wilkinson developed sepsis – when the body’s immune system becomes overloaded in response to an infection by attacking healthy tissues.
Sepsis can occur after surgery and in severe cases can be life-threatening and cause multi-organ failure.
Mrs. Wilkinson said, “I dropped him off at the hospital and drove away – it was the longest, most desolate day of my life.
“He was so sick, he said he could ‘feel every organ closing in his body.’
Mr. Wilkinson needed emergency surgery for emergency surgery, then had six other surgeries to treat complications and infections.
Ms. Wilkinson said, “Looking into his mouth now, I can clearly see the exposed metal plates, wires and dead bone.
“He can’t eat or drink, talk, his tongue is so swollen that he can barely breathe.
“It seems very likely that he will never be able to work again.
“He was very concerned with how he would look – now he feels like a big drooling baby. ‘
The plan for Mr. Wilkinson, who is still recovering, is now getting a transplant of his lower leg bones to try to rebuild his jaw.
Throughout this ordeal, Mr. Wilkinson established online support groups for people with similar diagnoses.
He raises awareness of little-known tumors and also raises funds to support the Bone Cancer Research Trust.
Since he can’t get back to work soon, the couple have one Gofundme page.