Hidden danger for the teeth: Detecting and treating jaw cysts

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Jaw cysts are among the more common diseases in the oral cavity. Especially middle-aged men are often affected. “Nevertheless, most of them do not know about their disease, as it often causes no pain. In many cases, we discover cysts by chance on x-rays, because there they appear as a dark spot in the jaw tissue,” says Dr. Dr. Manfred Nilius, M. Sc., specialist for oral and maxillofacial surgery and head of the Nilius Clinic in Dortmund.

Threat to the jaw
Cysts are cavities in the jaw tissue filled with fluid or scar tissue, also called granulation tissue. They often form due to dead teeth or inflammation, but also a disturbance during tooth development is a possible cause. However, pain only occurs when the bladder presses on the nerves of a tooth or becomes inflamed. “Nevertheless, a jaw cyst should be removed as soon as possible after its discovery. If left untreated, it continues to grow and displaces healthy jaw tissue, which in the worst case can lead to tooth loss,” warns Dr. Nilius.

Gentle removal
Two different methods can be used to treat a cyst. A so-called cystectomy is suitable for smaller tissue pockets. “This procedure refers to the surgical removal of the entire capsule. We gain access to the cyst via the oral cavity and peel it out of the jawbone. We then fill the resulting hole with a bone substitute material and sew it up again,” explains Dr. Nilius. For larger specimens, dentists open the bladder by cutting a small window into the tissue pocket. This drains the fluid and the cavity gradually decreases in size until the doctor can remove the remaining cyst after a few weeks.

After an operation on the jaw, the affected area usually swells and causes slight pain. During the first few days, patients should therefore take physical care of themselves and eat soft foods.

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