Dentigerous cyst

by Jason Wasserman MD PhD FRCPC
February 10, 2023

What is a dentigerous cyst?

A dentigerous cyst is a noncancerous growth that forms around the crown of an unerupted tooth. It is considered a type of odontogenic cyst because it develops from cells normally found in the bones of the jaw. Another name for this growth is a follicular cyst.

What are the symptoms of a dentigerous cyst?

Most dentigerous cysts are small and do not cause any symptoms. These cysts are typically found incidentally (unexpectedly) when an x-ray is performed for other reasons. Larger cysts can erode (damage) the surrounding bone and make the jaw appear larger than normal. In this situation, the cyst can become infected which can lead to pain and swelling.

What causes a dentigerous cyst?

A dentigerous cyst is caused by the build-up of fluid in the tissue surrounding an unerupted tooth. An unerupted tooth is a tooth that remains in the jaw and is not visible in the mouth.

Can a dentigerous cyst become cancerous?

A dentigerous cyst is a noncancerous growth. While cases of cancers developing in these types of cysts have been described in the scientific literature, these cases are very rare.

How is this diagnosis made?

The initial diagnosis is usually made after imaging such as an x-ray is performed. The diagnosis can also be made after the cyst is removed and sent to a pathologist for examination under the microscope.

What does a dentigerous cyst look like under the microscope?

When examined under the microscope, the inside surface of a dentigerous cyst is typically covered by a thin layer of squamous cells. Pathologists often describe these cells as stratified because they sit on top of each other like bricks in a wall. Other types of cells including cuboidal, columnar, and ciliated cells may also be seen. Fibrous tissue which appears bright pink is usually found just below the surface.

dentigerous cyst
Dentigerous cyst. The inside surface of the cyst is lined by a thin layer of pink squamous cells.

What is an inflamed dentigerous cyst?

A dentigerous cyst is described as inflamed if inflammatory cells such as histiocytes and multinucleated giant cells are seen within the cyst. Small collections of fatty material called cholesterol clefts may also be seen. Large cysts may become inflamed if they rupture (break) or become infected.

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