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, where as dentigerous cyst is lined by non keratinising 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. Dentigerous cysts due to its propensity for rapid expansion 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. While viewing an xray a dentigerous cyst should always be differentiated from a normal dental follicle. In all probability a large sized cyst could only be a dentigerous cyst.