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Diagnosing An Odontogenic Cyst And Getting Treatment

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

When teeth are developing, sometimes benign lesions develop in the jaw's cells and tissues called odontogenic cysts. While these growths are typically non-cancerous and treatable, it’s worth being aware of the background, symptoms, and what you can do if you think you might have one.

What Causes an Odontogenic Cyst?

Odontogenic cysts appear in the areas of the jaw involved in tooth formation. Different types of cysts fall into three groups: inflammatory, developmental, and neoplastic, with the most common being inflammatory. According to The Mayo Clinic, the causes of these cysts are unknown, though certain genetic conditions like Gorlin-Goltz syndrome may be related to their development. Sometimes, these cysts may affect the tooth's ability to erupt from the gums. Some types of odontogenic cysts may also grow back if a medical provider doesn't completely remove the cyst tissue during treatment.

Types of Odontogenic Cysts

Many odontogenic cysts are asymptomatic, so they may not be diagnosed until they grow larger. Each type of cyst occurs in different jaw locations, and most are benign or noncancerous. There are several types of cysts your dental professional may look out for:

  • Dentigerous cysts are the most common developmental cysts that most often occur in third molars (wisdom teeth) and maxillary canines, as those teeth can be impacted. These typically happen in association with the crown of an unerupted tooth.
  • Odontogenic keratocysts: Rare developmental cysts in the back portion of the lower jaw near the third molars or wisdom teeth. These cysts sometimes occur in people with a condition called nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome.
  • Central giant cell granuloma: These benign lesions most often appear in the front lower jaw. They can be aggressive, painful, and recur, and surgery is usually required.

Beyond these, dozens of other types of cysts range from asymptomatic to painful to aggressive. Therefore, odontogenic cyst symptoms can vary. But if you think you’re experiencing pain due to a lesion in your jaw, contact your dental professional for an examination.

Odontogenic Cyst Treatment

Dental professionals will typically recommend a test like an MRI, CT, or X-ray. They may also suggest getting a biopsy, where you will get part of the cyst removed and sent to a laboratory for further examination. These diagnostic tools allow the dental professional to identify the type of cyst and plan appropriate treatment.

Because there are so many types of these cysts, treatment varies depending on the type of cyst, the stage of its growth, and its location. Sometimes, they may recommend surgical methods such as odontogenic cyst removal. More severe cases might recommend tooth removal as well.

A cyst in your jaw doesn't necessarily mean you have cancer or another dire condition, and your medical or dental professional will have the tools to treat it effectively. While you may not be able to prevent a cyst from forming, seeing your dental professional regularly and getting routine dental X-rays will ensure that any dental conditions are detected and treated early.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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