Jaw cysts

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Author: Mikael Häggström [notes 1]
Cystic changes in the jaw bones or around teeth:

Microscopic examination

Attempt to characterize the lining of the cyst. Look for important signs:


Any keratinization of the lining.

Any signs of malignancy. Further information: Evaluation of suspected malignancies


Relative incidence of odontogenic cysts.[3]

All the following are odontogenic cyst, and in case of inability to specify further, may be simply diagnosed as such:

Cyst type Lining epithelium Other characteristics Image
Periapical (radicular) cyst Stratified squamous epithelium of variable thickness, except when originating in a maxillary sinus where there is respiratory epithelium (pseudostratified ciliated columnar epithelium).[1]
  • A fibrous capsule of varying thickness, with chronic inflammatory cells, wherein a plasma cells may be abundant.[1]

They sometimes have the following features:[1]

  • Cholesterol clefts in the cyst lining.
Histopathology of a periapical cyst, with metaplastic changes of mucous secreting cells (B), and ciliated cells (C).[4]
Non-inflamed dentigerous cyst
  • 2 - 4 layers of cuboidal epithelium, devoid of superficial keratinization.[2]
  • Sometimes partially a thin, fragmented layer of eosinophilic columnar cells or low cuboidal epithelium[2]
  • Fibrous to fibromyxoid connective tissue
  • No rete ridges, flat interface

They occasionally have:

  • Dystrophic calcifications
Histopathology of dentigerous cyst.jpg
Inflamed dentigerous cyst Hyperplastic non-keratinized epithelium[2] Typically:[2]
  • Fibrous connective tissue
  • Chronic inflammatory cells


  • Elongated interconnecting rete ridges
  • Cholesterol clefts, possibly cholesterol granuloma

They occasionally have:[2]

  • Dystrophic calcifications
Residual cyst Stratified squamous epithelium:[5]
  • May demonstrate exocytosis, spongiosis, and/or hyperplasia
  • May be discontinuous in part and range in thickness from 1 to 50 cell layers, but usually 6 - 20 cell layers

In early cysts, the epithelial lining tend to be proliferative and arcading, with an intense inflammation.
Established cysts tend to rather have fairly regular lining with a higher degree of differentiation, resembling a simple stratified squamous epithelium

Cyst lumen may demonstrate fluid and cellular debris.[5]

All types above can occasionally have scattered mucous or ciliated cells, as well as Rushton bodies, which are amorphic, eosinophilic, linear to crescent-shaped bodies in the cyst epithelium.[4][1][2][5]


  • Type of lining
  • Other visible features
  • At least the most probable type of cyst.
  • Even absence of signs of malignancy


Histopathology of a periapical cyst, with metaplastic changes of mucous secreting cells, and ciliated cells.jpg
Parts of a cyst, lined by stratified squamous epithelium, with foci of mucous cells and ciliated cells. The underlying fibrous capsule contains cholesterol clefts and inflammation. No signs of malignancy.
- Benign odontogenic cyst of periapical type.
See also: General notes on reporting


  1. For a full list of contributors, see article history. Creators of images are attributed at the image description pages, seen by clicking on the images. See Patholines:Authorship for details.

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  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Annie S. Morrison, Kelly Magliocca. Mandible & maxilla - Odontogenic cysts - Periapical (radicular) cyst. Pathology Outlines. Topic Completed: 1 March 2014. Revised: 13 December 2019
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 Kelly Magliocca, Annie S. Morrison. Mandible & maxilla - Odontogenic cysts - Dentigerous. Pathology Outlines. Topic Completed: 1 October 2013. Revised: 2 December 2019
  3. Leandro Bezerra Borges; Francisco Vagnaldo Fechine; Mário Rogério Lima Mota; Fabrício Bitu Sousa; Ana Paula Negreiros Nunes Alves (2012). "Odontogenic lesions of the jaw: a clinical-pathological study of 461 cases. ". Revista Gaúcha de Odontologia 60 (1). Archived from the original. . 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Tsesis, I; Rosen, E; Dubinsky, L; Buchner, A; Vered, M (2016). "Metaplastic changes in the epithelium of radicular cysts: A series of 711 cases ". Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry: 0–0. doi:10.4317/jced.52846. ISSN 19895488. 
    - "Fig 2- available via license: Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic"
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Annie S. Morrison, Kelly Magliocca. Mandible & maxilla - Odontogenic cysts - Residual cyst. Pathology Outlines. Topic Completed: 1 April 2014. Revised: 13 December 2019