A dentigerous cyst is a fluid-filled sac that develops in a person’s mouth. These cysts develop in the jaw bone or soft tissue and appear over the top of a tooth that has not yet erupted.

Dentigerous cysts are fluid-filled sacs that form over unerupted or partially erupted teeth. They usually affect the maxillary canines and third molars, known as wisdom teeth. They are most common in people between ages 10–30 years old, according to research from 2014.

Dentigerous cysts can cause no symptoms. However, if a person does not get treatment, the cysts can lead to complications such as infection and tooth loss.

This article will explain more about dentigerous cysts, how healthcare professionals treat them, and complications that can arise if a person does not receive treatment.

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A dentigerous cyst is a fluid-filled sac that forms over an unerupted or partially erupted tooth, also known as an impacted tooth. It develops when fluid accumulates between the crown of an impacted tooth and the outer layer of enamel.

An impacted tooth is stuck and has not emerged through the gum. These teeth are partially or completely covered by bone, soft tissue, or both.

The dental follicle is the tissue that surrounds the crown of a developing tooth. It remains in place until the tooth erupts.

A dentigerous cyst can cause the dental follicle to dilate (become wider), which can prevent the tooth from erupting.

Dentigerous cysts account for 24% of all cysts in the jaw.

A dentigerous cyst can cause no symptoms. However, if it becomes inflamed, a person may experience:

  • swelling
  • tooth sensitivity
  • the presence of a small bump where the tooth should erupt
  • displaced teeth

The growth of a dentigerous cyst can slowly push teeth, nerves, and other mouth structures out of alignment.

A dentigerous cyst develops when fluid builds up over the top of an impacted tooth. Experts are unsure about what causes this fluid buildup.

Impacted teeth stay embedded in a person’s gum tissue or jaw bone for longer than usual. These teeth have an increased risk of developing a dentigerous cyst.

A person’s chance of developing a dentigerous cyst increases the longer they have an impacted tooth.

Learn more about impacted teeth here.

Dentigerous cysts often cause no symptoms. This can make them hard to diagnose.

A medical professional can identify these cysts on an X-ray. During an X-ray, a machine passes a form of ionizing radiation through a part of the body to produce images of tissues, organs, bones, or teeth.

Orthodontists use X-rays for many reasons, including investigating why a tooth has failed to erupt. This is often when they discover a dentigerous cyst.

Sometimes, people may need surgery for a dentigerous cyst. This is a simple surgical procedure where a dentist removes the affected tooth and the cyst tissue. Surgery is very effective and usually resolves the problem.

Large cysts may require a treatment called ‘marsupialization‘. During this procedure, a dentist or surgeon makes an incision in the cyst before draining the fluid from it.

Once they have drained the cyst fluid, the surgeon then stitches the edges of the open cyst in order to keep it open. This helps prevent a cyst from growing there again.

If a person receives the correct treatment, a dentigerous cyst may cause no complications at all.

Without treatment, the cyst may develop an infection. Pain is often the first symptom of an infection a person experiences.

If a dentigerous cyst continues to expand, it may interfere with structures in the mouth. This can cause symptoms such as a tingling or prickling sensation known as nerve paresthesia.

There is some evidence that dentigerous cysts can play a role in the formation of rare benign jaw tumors known as ameloblastoma.

If a person has a small dentigerous cyst and receives appropriate treatment, their outlook is excellent.

Once a person receives treatment, they are unlikely to have further complications. Appropriate treatment also means there is a very low chance that the cyst can reoccur.

However, if an oral surgeon cannot remove all of the cyst tissue, the cyst can reoccur.

A dentigerous cyst can develop over an impacted tooth. The cyst is a fluid-filled sac and appears in the jaw bone or soft tissue.

These cysts can cause no symptoms. However, if the cyst becomes inflamed, it can swell. This can lead to pain, tooth sensitivity, lump formation, and tooth displacement.

An oral surgeon can remove a dentigerous cyst, along with the affected tooth. Another treatment option is marsupialization.

Treatment is very effective and often resolves the problem completely.

If a person does not receive treatment, the cyst may develop an infection. Other potential complications include nerve paresthesia and the development of ameloblastoma.