Oral pathology is a term that refers to any disease that can develop inside the mouth, jaws or salivary glands. The most serious is oral cancer, but there are many other, more common forms of oral pathology that are benign, or non-cancerous. However, it is important to note that non-cancerous does not necessarily mean harmless, so any indication of oral pathology needs evaluation. When there are irregularities in the mouth that may indicate a pathological condition, patients are generally referred to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon for evaluation and treatment.
Common types of oral pathology include lesions, ulcers, lumps or growths in the mucosa, which is the smooth, coral pink skin that lines the inside of the mouth, and jawbone cysts or lesions. Cysts or lesions in the jawbone are typically discovered by dental professionals during examinations, while indications of oral pathologies that affect the mucosa may be noticed by patients themselves or their dentists. Common signs that can indicate oral pathology include:
Any changes in color or appearance of the mucosa can be indications that a pathological condition has begun to develop and should be evaluated. These changes may occur in the palate, cheeks, gum tissue, tongue, lips face or neck. Regular, monthly self-examination is recommended to keep watch for any such changes. Many types of oral pathology – even oral cancer – present with no pain. However, facial or oral pain without obvious cause can indicate oral pathology and should be investigated.
To evaluate a patient with oral pathology or indications of potential oral pathology, Dr. Arroyo will take a medical history and perform a physical examination of the mouth to determine the location, shape, color and texture of any changes in the mucosa. Imaging will be done to detect any changes in the bone, jaw or other oral structures. In many cases, biopsies are done to rule out cancer in lesions, ulcers, growths or cysts, which generally consist of taking tissue samples to be analyzed under a microscope.
If oral pathology is diagnosed, treatment, of course, will vary according to the particular type of pathology present. In most cases, oral pathology is treated or managed by oral and maxillofacial surgeons, but in a small percentage of cases, referrals to other medical or dental professionals may be necessary.
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