Oral Pathology

Oral pathology is a subspecialty of dentistry that focuses on the identification, treatment, origins and effects of oral and maxillofacial diseases. Oral pathologists are involved in all areas of disease management including research, diagnosis/examination and treatment. Oral pathology is the science that treats the nature, causes and development of oral diseases in the oral cavity and the maxillofacial region. It includes both the clinical and the microscopic study of structural and functional changes that cause, or are caused by, oral and other diseases.

Oral pathology covers the diverse spectrum of disease processes affecting oral structures and tissues. The training offers an in-depth penetration into the pathology of the oral cavity including teeth, peridontium, oral mucosa, tongue, jaws, salivary glands, temporo-mandibular joint and maxillary sinus. Oral pathology, also called an oral maxillofacial pathology, is a dental practice that specializes in the diagnosis of serious dental and facial cavity diseases. Whenever a general dentist encounters evidence of a chronic condition during a routine exam, he or she may remove a portion of the affected tissue and send it to an oral pathologist for further study.

Generally speaking, the inside of the mouth is normally lined with a special type of skin (mucosa) that is smooth and coral pink in color. Any alteration in this appearance could be a warning sign for a pathological process. The most serious of these is oral cancer. The following can be signs at the beginning of a pathologic process or cancerous growth:

  • Reddish patches (erythroplasia) or whitish patches (leukoplakia) in the mouth.
  • A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily.
  • A lump or thickening on the skin lining the inside of the mouth.
  • Chronic sore throat or hoarseness. Difficulty in chewing or swallowing.

These changes can be detected on the lips, cheeks, palate, and gum tissue around the teeth, tongue, face and/or neck. Pain does not always occur with pathology and curiously is not often associated with oral cancer. However, any patient with facial and/or oral pain without an obvious cause or reason may also be at risk for oral cancer.

We would recommend performing an oral cancer self-examination monthly and remember that your mouth is one of your body’s most important warning systems. Do not ignore suspicious lumps or sores. Please contact us so we may help.