Cysts are tissue cavities that are lined with a layer of epithelial cells and may contain accumulations of fluid from tissue water, blood or, in the case of inflamed cysts, pus. In the case of jaw cysts, these cavities are located in the lower or upper jawbone or in the adjacent soft tissue.
What are jaw cysts?
Jaw cysts usually do not cause any clear symptoms at the beginning. The first symptoms appear when the cavities have reached a large extent. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Jaw Cyst.
Jaw cysts occur more frequently in the upper than in the lower jaw and usually appear in middle age. There are two types of jaw cysts: the odontogenic cyst that develops from tooth tissue and the non-odontogenic cyst that develops in the surrounding soft tissue.
The cyst is separated from its surroundings by the cyst wall (capsule or envelope made of soft tissue) and has no drain. The contents of the cyst are mostly produced by the epithelial cells lining the inner cyst wall.
Because the contents of the cyst cannot drain, the cyst grows over time and presses on nearby tissue. In most cases, jaw cysts are benign and are only noticed when they cause symptoms as they grow.
The causes are growth disorders or malformations, genetic predisposition and inflammation, which can contribute to the formation of a jaw cyst. About 80% of all jaw cysts are odontogenic cysts, which form when there is inflammation at the root tip of a diseased or dead tooth.
This inflammation can be caused, for example, by a root treatment with irritation of the periodontium and is also referred to as radicular cysts. Follicular cysts, on the other hand, already develop in the fetus in the womb when the tooth germ is formed. This type of jaw cyst surrounds the milk tooth before it erupts.
Some follicular cysts also lie directly on the tooth and bulge the gums up even before the tooth erupts through the gums. Periodontal cysts form on healthy teeth, while gum cysts are commonly found near canines or the front molars. Non-odontogenic cysts arise from the soft tissue surrounding the jawbone. They are usually located in the palate or in the maxillary sinus and can lead to misaligned teeth, among other things.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Jaw cysts usually do not cause any clear symptoms at the beginning. The first symptoms appear when the cavities have reached a large extent. Then they can be felt from the outside, and when they are touched with a finger, a cracking or crackling noise can occur. As the cysts progress, they cause tissue damage in the neighboring region.
Pressure points, swelling and infections are possible, but also fractures or deformation of the bone. Pain is also felt when the cysts press on a nerve or displace tissue in the jaw area. The pain is usually described as dull or throbbing. They usually occur in phases and can radiate to the surrounding body regions.
If the jaw cysts continue to grow, misaligned or loosening teeth can occur. Further growth of the cysts eventually leads to the loss of teeth in the affected region. At the same time, the jawbone is reamed.
This process can last for months or years and is manifested by increasing pain and instability of the jawbone. If the cysts are left untreated, a jaw fracture can occur. The cysts can also rupture and cause inflammation or infection.
Diagnosis & History
Since jaw cysts grow very slowly and do not cause any symptoms for a long time, in many cases they are only discovered by chance during X -ray or ultrasound examinations or dental treatments. If the cysts get bigger, they can cause pain and, due to the displacement of the surrounding tissue, a non-specific feeling of pressure in the area of the jawbone.
If the jaw cyst is not treated, it can even “soften” and deform the jawbone. If you press your finger against a jawbone that has been swollen by the cyst, you will hear a kind of crackling sound.
In the further stage, the cyst can deform the jawbone to such an extent that it loses its substance and stability and this can even lead to facial disfigurement. Nerve damage with accompanying signs of paralysis are also possible.
In many cases, jaw cysts do not cause any particular symptoms or complications. These can spread in the patient’s body for several years and do not lead to pain or other symptoms. However, jaw cysts can also cause swelling of the jaw, which is usually visible. The cyst can also be diagnosed by gently pressing on the jaw.
The cyst can also deform the bone of the jaw, which can lead to severe pain. Disfigurements of the face also occur, which often lead to depression or other psychological problems. This significantly restricts and reduces the patient’s quality of life. This can lead to paralysis of the face, making it difficult for the person affected to take in liquids and food.
Jaw cysts are usually removed by a surgeon or dentist. There are no particular complications. Those affected are still dependent on taking antibiotics, however, so that inflammation does not occur after the removal. The life expectancy of the patient is usually not reduced by the jaw cysts.
When should you go to the doctor?
Since a jaw cyst often remains symptom-free for a long time, the affected person should take part in regular dental check-ups. In many cases, incidental findings lead to the discovery of the cysts present. A doctor’s visit is required as soon as oral discomfort and irregularities develop. A doctor is needed in the event of pain, tooth displacement or loosening of the teeth. If the pain spreads across the face and into the head area, a doctor should be consulted. In the case of sleep disorders or interruptions in concentration, it is also advisable to clarify the symptoms. If you have problems chewing, if you experience swelling or a feeling of tightness in your mouth, see a doctor.
If irregularities are found when wearing braces or problems occur with an integrated denture, a doctor should be consulted. A refusal to eat for several days and a severe hypersensitivity to food and liquids are indications that should be evaluated by a doctor. If there are abnormalities in the gums or jaw in addition to the problems with the teeth, you should see a doctor for a check-up. Discoloration of the mucous membranes and pus formation in the mouth should be presented to a doctor. A doctor should be consulted if there is a misalignment of the jaw, optical changes in the shape of the face or sudden bleeding in the mouth.
Treatment & Therapy
If a jaw cyst has been discovered during an imaging procedure, it is always recommended to remove it. On X-ray and ultrasound images, a cyst can often not be differentiated from a rare tumor, so that only removal by a dentist or oral surgeon and a possible subsequent histological examination can provide information about the type of cyst.
In many cases, radicular cysts can be removed by tooth extraction. In the case of smaller cysts in the jawbone or soft tissue, a cystectomy (removal) is usually carried out, while larger and unfavorably located cysts can only be incised (cystostomy) so that the contents of the cyst can drain out.
If the jawbone cyst has created a cavity in the jawbone, this is filled with bone replacement material in order to maintain or restore the stability of the jawbone. Both removal and incision of the cyst require subsequent treatment with antibiotics to prevent inflammation. Jaw cysts can recur, meaning they can form again later in the same place.
Outlook & Forecast
Jaw cysts are usually discovered by accident by the treating dentist. In most cases, the doctor diagnoses it based on an X-ray taken of a diseased tooth. In general, such jaw cysts are considered harmless, but should be treated promptly. If the affected person decides to go to the doctor for treatment, the existing jaw cysts are surgically removed. The resulting cavity is filled with a special material so that any complications can be ruled out at an early stage.
If such an operation does not take place, the affected person must expect considerable problems. An existing jaw cyst can enlarge within a very short time, so that it is even visible from the outside. In addition, malpositions of the jaw or teeth are possible, which can only be corrected with great difficulty and at great expense afterwards. For this reason, removal of such jaw cysts is urgently needed.
If the affected person opts for medical and drug treatment, a quick and at the same time complete recovery can be expected. Without any medical intervention, self-healing is almost impossible. Jaw cysts will not go away on their own, so going to the doctor is essential.
The best prophylaxis is good dental care and oral hygiene, a healthy diet and regular dental check-ups. Even with minor or unclear complaints, you should not shy away from a visit to the dentist in order to recognize a possible jaw cyst in good time. If a cyst has been removed or treated, regular follow-up checks are required to detect a possible recurrence in good time.
Follow-up care primarily concerns diseases that can recur after initial therapy. This includes tumors. Doctors promise a better prognosis by starting treatment early. Such a procedure may also be appropriate after the removal of a jaw cyst.
Because in certain cases there is a new formation. The rhythm of aftercare is agreed between the doctor and the patient depending on the cause. X-rays, on which the cysts can be clearly identified, are suitable for diagnosis. Follow-up care also aims to prevent pain and complications.
The best way to do this is to take it easy immediately after an operation. Solid foods should be avoided for a short time. The doctor often prescribes special mouthwashes to ensure hygiene. Once the wound on the gums has healed, the acute follow-up care can end. There is only the question of a new formation.
Jaw cysts usually do not require treatment while they are small. Because there are no symptoms, doctors often do without surgical removal. Instead, they choose long-term therapy or aftercare, during which they observe the development of the cysts. Annual presentations, in which the development status is analyzed by means of an X-ray image, are suitable.
You can do that yourself
A jaw cyst does not usually cause any symptoms, but it still needs to be treated by a dentist. Otherwise the cavity will enlarge and can displace healthy tissue or cause misaligned teeth.
As self-help, it is recommended that those affected consult a dentist or oral surgeon at the first sign of a cyst. If possible, the affected area should not be irritated or touched with the tongue until you see a doctor in order to avoid injuries or the development of a bacterial focus. After the treatment, the first thing to do is to follow the doctor’s advice and instructions. Basically, thorough tooth and mouth care is important.
In order for the recovery to proceed without any problems, the body should be sufficiently protected. Immediately after the operation, this means not eating or drinking. Gradually, liquid foods such as soups or porridge can be eaten again. Alcohol, coffee and nicotine should be avoided if possible, as the body is already under a great deal of stress. In the days that follow, strenuous activities and sports should be avoided. Regular check-ups at the dentist are also indicated. In the event of unwanted complications, the dental practice should be consulted immediately.