Cavitation: The Silent Infection

Side view of a mandible (jaw bone) showing an area of necrotic bone, otherwise known as a cavitation. (Courtesy Dr. Wesley E. Shankland II, DDS, MS, PhD)

Side view of a mandible (jaw bone) showing an area of necrotic bone, otherwise known as a cavitation. 
(Courtesy Dr. Wesley E. Shankland II, DDS, MS, PhD)

If you’ve ever lost a tooth, whether it was removed intentionally during a dental procedure or unexpectedly knocked out, your hope is that your mouth will heal naturally. But sometimes, the bone that surrounded the missing tooth does not heal properly. This is usually due to ligaments from the tooth that remain in the hole that the tooth once filled. This hole or pocket in your jaw bone is called a cavitation and can act as a breeding ground for bacteria and their toxins. As ligaments and other membranes that once supported the tooth begin to deteriorate they can infect the surrounding bone. There is growing evidence that cavitations are a widespread problem. Inside cavitations, bacteria can flourish and deviant cells multiply. Often patients are unaware of this silent infection.

When a dentist takes an x-ray of your mouth the cavitation may show up as a phantom tooth. Diagnosing cavitations is a very elusive process.The membrane left behind from the original tooth appears as a shadow of the tooth on the x-ray and unless your dentist is specifically looking for cavitations they may go unnoticed.

Illustration showing the components of the jaw, in and around a cavitation. (Courtesy Dr. Wesley E. Shankland II, DDS, MS, PhD)

Illustration showing the components of the
jaw, in and around a cavitation.
(Courtesy Dr. Wesley E. Shankland II, DDS, MS, PhD)

Cavitations have been found to contain biologically toxic material. One symptom of cavitations is when the area with a suspected cavitation is lightly stroked or when pressure is applied the patient will sometimes feel pain. Specialists acknowledge that facial pain may, in some instances, be the result of cavitations, but little is known about the impact cavitations have on a patient’s overall health.

Treatment for cavitations depends upon each patient’s unique situation. Traditional dental procedures as well as holistic or whole body approaches are available. Patients who experience facial pain or who suspect they may have cavitations should seek advice from their dental professional.