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.