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What Are Mandibular Cysts?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Mandibular cysts are small sacs that form around the lower jaw, known as the mandible. There are a number of types, each with a distinct cause, and treatment options can depend on the nature of the cyst and its position. Patients usually notice them when they grow large enough to create swelling, or when processes inside the cyst create pain and inflammation. Some can be extremely painful.

One of the most common types of mandibular cyst is an odontogenic cyst, located in close proximity to the teeth and lined with epithelial cells involved in tooth formation. Sometimes patients have primordial mandibular cysts, sacs which form in the empty spaces where teeth should have grown. Others can have cysts with a variety of causes, including cancerous growths in the mandible or around the gums.

Cysts around the lower jaw may be filled with fluid, dead cells, and debris. They can vary in size and may grow over time, often hardening because of chronic inflammation. If a cyst is not treated, it can potentially eat through the cheek or jaw and may cause considerable pain. In cancerous cysts, treatment is critical to prevent the spread of the cancer. Patients may lose their jaws to these cysts if they fail to get treatment and the growths are particularly aggressive.

Sometimes the growth causes no symptoms in the early stages. A patient may notice a lump or a swelling, or the cyst could only be visible in an x-ray of the teeth and jaw. If a dentist identifies a cyst, the first course of action is usually a request for a biopsy to learn more about what is inside. Mandibular cysts can sometimes be biopsied with scrapings, and in other cases a needle aspiration or surgical biopsy is needed. A pathologist can examine the specimen to find out what kinds of cells are involved and to check for a malignancy.

Patients can develop mandibular cysts at any age. Sometimes they are associated with ongoing periodontal disease, and in other cases there are no clear risk factors. Oral or jaw pain, even without any other symptoms like obvious growths, can be a cause for concern. The patient should seek medical treatment to determine the cause of the pain and discuss treatment options. Oral health problems can become pernicious, and can expose patients to the risk of complications like migrating infections if they are not brought under control in a timely fashion.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon940143 — On Mar 17, 2014

My 9 year old son was just at the dentist and they found these on his X-ray. We are going to the surgeon on Wednesday. He is also congenitally missing 11 adult teeth. We are all a little scared so if anyone has any more info on these cysts, please comment!

By JaneAir — On Oct 26, 2011

@strawCake - Dental x-rays are a good idea since some of these cysts don't cause symptoms. However, some of them I'm sure you would definitely notice!

Take the primordial cyst, for example. The article says that it forms where a tooth should be. So obviously, if you have a cyst and not a tooth you need to get yourself to the dentist!

Anyway, any kind of oral infection scares me. Your mouth is not that far away from your brain, and it's easy for infections in that area to spread to your brain. Scary!

By strawCake — On Oct 25, 2011

This is a great argument for making sure you visit the dentist once a year. I know I've been guilty of skipping my yearly cleaning, because I just hate going to the dentist and having them poke around in my mouth. I even find getting the x-rays kind of uncomfortable.

However, oral x-rays can catch mandibular cysts early, as the article said. I think if I had a problem like this, I would prefer to find it earlier, rather than later. The idea of losing my jaw is just not appealing to me.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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