Jaw Cysts

A cyst is a fluid filled sac that has a lining, and can result in swelling of the jaw. Occasionally they might become painful and infected. As they grow, they might affect nearby teeth.  A cyst will not resolve by itself. It is best to treat as soon as possible, before it causes problems. Some types of dental cysts (i.e. odontogenic keratocyst) behave aggressively and they may recur. The type of the cyst will be known after treatment, as your OMFS surgeon will send the specimen to be examined under the microscope by the pathologist.


Your OMFS surgeon will surgically remove the cyst, and new bone will gradually grow into the cavity. In general this is achieved with an operation called enucleation. This involves complete removal of the cyst and it’s lining after making a window to the jawbone. Occasionally, in cases of very large cysts, a technique called marsupialisation is used: The cyst is opened, part of the lining is removed, and the remainder of the lining is sutured to the tissues of your mouth. This allows the cyst cavity to slowly reduce in size. It requires several changes of a dressing called a “pack”.

Any teeth associated with the cyst might need to be removed, although your OMFS surgeon will attempt to save them if possible.

Common types of cysts of dental origin include:

  • Dentigerous cyst
  • Periapical (radicular) cyst
  • Odontogenic keratocyst

The list of jawbone cysts is very long; ask your OMFS surgeon to explain what type of cyst you have. In general, the treatment is the same no mater what cyst you have.

Occasionally, other pathologies can present like cysts, including ameloblastoma (a benign locally aggressive tumour that is derived from ancient dental epithelium) or, rarely, H&N cancer can present in a cystic form.