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Rachel Toliver – Keratocystic Odontogenic Tumor (KCOT) Success Story



TEAM EFFORTFor most people, the process of getting braces is pretty straightforward. But that wasn’t the case for Rachel Toliver, who had to jump over quite a few hurdles before she could even get her braces started.

Fortunately, that proved to be no problem for the energetic 22-year-old, a standout member of the track and field team at Baylor University. Her top event, as it just so happens, is jumping.

Rachel first discovered that she had a problem in 2015 during an appointment at an orthodontics center in her hometown of Los Angeles.

A surprising find

“I was hoping to get braces started while I was at home during a school break,” recalls Rachel, a senior who is studying communication science disorders and speech pathology. “But after my X-rays, the orthodontist told me it appeared that I had a cyst in my right jaw, which was very shocking news. I didn’t have pain or other symptoms, so I had no idea that anything was wrong.”

At the orthodontist’s urging, Rachel immediately sought the advice of an L.A.-based oral surgeon who had removed her wisdom teeth years before. Following a biopsy, that physician ultimately diagnosed the cyst as a keratocystic odontogenic tumor (KCOT), a hard-to-detect abnormal cell growth that usually occurs in the jaw region.

KCOTs are rare and typically noncancerous, and fortunately Rachel’s tumor proved to be no exception.

“I was relieved to confirm that the tumor was benign, but the problem remained as to what to do about it,” Rachel says. “It was so large that I couldn’t get braces.”

Clearing the final hurdle

Rachel Toliver – Keratocystic Odontogenic Tumor (KCOT) Success StoryTo begin shrinking the tumor, her L.A. surgeon recommended a process known as marsupialization, whereby a tiny drainage tube is wired to a tooth and inserted into the growth in order to shrink it.

After getting the tube inserted, the surgeon then referred her to David Kang, MD, DDS, MS, FACS, a head and neck surgeon on the medical staff at Methodist Dallas Medical Center.

“Because of the size of the tumor, we left the drainage tube in place while Rachel was going through track season,” Dr. Kang says. “I told Rachel I’d see her again in a few months.”

Fast forward to last summer, when Rachel’s mom flew in from L.A. to accompany Rachel on the drive from Waco to Dallas to clear the last jump on Rachel’s road to braces — the surgical removal of the tumor.

“Thanks in part to the success of the marsupialization process, we were able to remove the growth without difficulty — and more important, without any damage to the nerve area, which is sometimes a complication of this type of procedure,” Dr. Kang says. “She came in around 7 a.m., and we had her discharged by noon.”

Not only was her surgery over and done with quickly, but Rachel says she was pain-free and back to her routine within a few days.

“I was a bit apprehensive about the procedure when I arrived, but everyone at Methodist Dallas was so friendly and helpful that I soon felt very comfortable,” she remembers. “The anesthesiologist and Dr. Kang both explained everything in easy-to-understand terms before we got started, so my mom and I felt like we knew what to expect.”

Today, the champion jumper is finishing her final track season at Baylor, getting ready to graduate, and looking forward to finally getting her braces this summer.

“I can’t wait to see my new and improved smile,” she says.