A dentigerous cyst is an odontogenic cyst - thought to be of developmental origin - associated with the crown of an unerupted (or partially erupted) tooth. The cyst cavity is lined by epithelial cells derived from the reduced enamel epithelium of the tooth forming organ. Regarding its pathogenesis, it has been suggested that the pressure exerted by an erupting tooth on the follicle may obstruct venous flow inducing accumulation of exudate between the reduced enamel epithelium and the tooth crown.
In addition to the developmental origin, some authors have suggested that periapical inflammation of non-vital deciduous teeth in proximity to the follicles of unerupted permanent successors may be a factor for triggering this type of cyst formation.
Histologically a normal dental follicle is lined by enamel epithelium, whereas a dentigerous cyst is lined by non-keratinized stratified squamous epithelium. Since the dentigerous cyst develops from follicular epithelium it has more potential for growth, differentiation and degeneration than a radicular cyst. Occasionally the wall of a dentigerous cyst may give rise to a more ominous mucoepidermoid carcinoma. Due to the tendency for dentigerous cysts to expand rapidly, they may cause pathological fractures of jaw bones.
The usual radiographic appearance is that of a well-demarcated radiolucent lesion attached at an acute angle to the cervical area of an unerupted tooth. The border of the lesion may be radiopaque. The radiographic differentiation between a dentigerous cyst and a normal dental follicle is based merely on size. Radiographically, a dentigerous cyst should always be differentiated from a normal dental follicle. Dentigerous cysts are the most common cysts with this radiographic appearance.