Oral Pathology

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.

Oral & Maxillofacial surgeons recommend that everyone do an oral cancer self- exam once per month. You are at a high risk for oral cancer if you: smoke, drink, or use smokeless tobacco. The mouth is a region where changes are easily seen; oral cancer can be detected in early stages.

The things to look for on oral cancer exams:

• Red patches
• White patches
• Difficulty in chewing or swallowing
• Chronic sore throat
• A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily
• A lump or thickening of tissue

If you have any of these signs, see your oral & maxillofacial surgeon.

If the surgeon agrees that something looks suspicious, a biopsy may be recommended. This procedure involves removal of a piece of suspicious tissue. The biopsy is then sent to the pathology laboratory for accurate diagnosis.

Other contributing factors for oral cancer other than tobacco products and alcohol include poor oral hygiene, irritation by ill-fitting dentures and rough surfaces on teeth, poor nutrition and combinations of these factors.

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