Mandible & maxilla

Other benign tumors / tumor-like conditions

Latent bone cavity

Topic Completed: 1 June 2017

Minor changes: 10 May 2021

Copyright: 2002-2019,, Inc.

PubMed Search: Latent bone cavity

Kelly Magliocca, D.D.S., M.P.H.
Anthony Martinez, M.D.
Page views in 2020: 452
Page views in 2021 to date: 391
Cite this page: Magliocca K, and Martinez A. Latent bone cavity. website. Accessed October 22nd, 2021.
Definition / general
  • A benign cortical defect of bone, primarily located near the angle of the mandible, that is replaced by salivary gland tissue, adipose tissue or connective tissue
Essential features
  • Usually an asymptomatic, radiolucent lesion near the angle of the mandible that is replaced by salivary gland tissue, adipose tissue or connective tissue
  • Latent bone cyst / cavity
  • Stafne bone cavity (SBC)
  • Lingual mandible bone cavity
  • Lingual mandible bone depression
  • Salivary gland cavity
  • Idiopathic bone cyst, cavity or defect
ICD coding
  • M27.0 
  • Most common site is near angle of mandible, below inferior alveolar canal
    • Often referred to as the posterior lingual variant
  • Less frequent (5% of cases) between the incisor and the premolar areas, referred to as the anterior lingual variant (Dentomaxillofac Radiol 2012;41:152)
  • Most are unilateral but some are bilateral
  • Unknown, but different theories have been proposed
  • (a) Developmental concavity in which salivary gland tissue gets congenitally entrapped during mandible development
  • (b) Pressure resorption theory: due to pressure from adjacent salivary gland tissue or facial artery
Clinical features
  • Usually asymptomatic
  • Facial swelling can be seen
  • Radiographic imaging is usually diagnostic as most individuals are asymptomatic
  • In difficult or unusual cases, CT and MRI with contrast enhancement may be helpful, along with histologic findings
Radiology description
  • Usually a circumscribed, unilocular osteolytic radiolucency
  • Median 1.2 cm, range 0.5 to 2 cm
Radiology images

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Radiolucency on radiographs



3D reconstruction

Prognostic factors
  • Benign, good prognosis
Case reports
  • If properly identified, no treatment is necessary
  • Otherwise, conservative approach with radiographic follow up
Clinical images

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Facial swelling

Intra-oral view

Gross images

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Biopsy specimen

Microscopic (histologic) images

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Salivary gland tissue, fat, nerves, blood vessels, muscle

Differential diagnosis
  • Odontogenic cyst
  • Reactive / inflammatory processes related to odontogenic infection or inflammation
  • Benign or malignant odontogenic tumor
  • Salivary gland neoplasm
  • Other metastases such as lymphoma, melanoma
Board review style question #1
A man having routine dental radiographs was found to have a lytic lesion near the angle of the mandible. Given the classic characteristic radiographic features, the patient was told he had a Stafne defect and that no treatment was need. If a pathology specimen was obtained, what would be expected microscopically?

  1. Cystic lesion lined by columnar basal cells in a palisading arrangement with vacuolated cytoplasm and nuclei polarized away from basement membrane
  2. Normal appearing salivary gland tissue
  3. Squamous epithelium with a wavy "corrugated" surface and basal cell layer with palisading
  4. A and C
  5. None of the above
Board review style answer #1
B. Normal appearing salivary gland tissue

A. describes a unicystic ameloblastoma
C. describes a keratocystic odontogenic tumor

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