Oral Cysts FAQ
Oral cysts are fluid filled sacs of scar tissue or epithelial tissue that can occur anywhere in the mouth. They may develop in the lining of the cheeks, the tongue or lips, or around teeth in the jawbone. Oral cysts generally develop as the result of inflammation, irritation, infection or other trauma to the tissues in the mouth. However, they often cause no symptoms in their early stages. If you have recently discovered an oral or dental cyst in your mouth, you may have some questions. Here are answers that may help you understand this health condition better.
Are oral cysts cancerous?
No. By definition, a cyst is just a benign fluid-filled sac. The contents of the cyst may be infected or sterile, and the cyst may continue to grow in size. However, the cyst is not malignant and will not spread to other organs in your body like cancer might. In very rare cases, cellular changes that lead to the formation of a cyst could conceivably promote tumor formation and oral cancer instead. Also, some tumors can initially look like cysts in an x-ray. This is why your dentist will want to take a biopsy of the growth to make sure it is really just a cyst. If you have been firmly diagnosed with a cyst after your results come back, then you can rest assured it is not cancer.
If I have one oral cyst, will I get another?
This depends on the type of cyst involved. Small cysts in the mucous membranes due to damaged salivary glands are somewhat common. You may have several over the course of your lifetime if you tend to injure the inside of your mouth by accidentally biting it or if you have a tongue or lip stud. Periapical cysts form around the roots of teeth that are abscessed, fractured or dead. If you have many badly decayed teeth requiring root canals, there’s a chance that you could have a cyst on more than one tooth root. However, with the exception of patients who have a rare genetic disorder called Gorlin Syndrome, people usually only get one dental cyst. It is possible for the same cyst to come back after treatment. This is particularly likely if the whole cyst including the lining is not completely removed.
Will an oral cyst go away?
Mucosal cysts that are close to the surface do usually go away on their own. The wall of these cysts is pretty fragile and generally ruptures naturally, allowing the contents to drain away. Mucous cysts that are located deeper under the surface may not go away. A very small periapical cyst that is just starting to form around the root of an abscessed tooth may resolve on its own after a root canal. Larger cysts around teeth and in the jawbone do not typically go away. They must be surgically removed.
Who can remove an oral cyst?
A dentist who knows how to perform common oral surgeries such as impacted wisdom tooth removal and root canals can often take out a cyst that is near a tooth. An oral and maxillofacial surgeon or other specialist may need to be involved if you have:
- A very large cyst
- A cyst that is located close to vital structures such as nerves or sinus cavities
- A cyst that recurs after initial treatment
Why should I have an oral cyst removed?
It’s normal to be apprehensive about any kind of oral surgery. However, leaving a cyst in place can lead to more serious complications later on. For example, a cyst may become infected and develop into a painful abscess. Or, the cyst may grow large enough to push teeth out of alignment or cause your body to reabsorb the roots of nearby teeth. A cyst in the jawbone may get so big that it creates a visible lump and facial asymmetry. Since a cyst is hollow, it can significantly weaken your jaw, making the bone more prone to fracturing. A cyst in a salivary gland can cause significant, chronic discomfort. Your dentist will discuss the risks of leaving a cyst in place. Ultimately, it’s up to you how and when you treat it. Just keep in mind that a smaller cyst is much easier to remove than a larger one, and it leaves behind a smaller hole.