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Oral pathology is concerned with the disease inside the mouth: the inside of the mouth is lined with a special kind of skin called mucosa that’s very smooth and pink. Assessment of oral pathologies will usually involve examining the mucosa for signs that something may be wrong.
While oral pathologies come in a variety of forms, the biggest thing we look for are signs of oral cancer. Your surgeon may ask you to undergo a biopsy to reach a specific diagnosis of the issue. A biopsy is a surgical procedure that involves removing a piece of the suspicious tissue. In this case, it’s often part of the mucosa, sometimes from the underlying bone. Most biopsies can be performed in the office with local anesthesia. The removed tissue will be examined under a microscope to gain further information as to a diagnosis.
- When performing an examination that could lead to a biopsy, we look for any alterations in the mucosa. That involves:
- Reddish patches (erythroplasia) in the mouth
- White patches (leukoplakia) in the mouth
- A sore that won’t heal and bleeds easily
- Lumps or thickening of the skin lining inside of the mouth
- A chronic sore throat or hoarseness
- Difficulty in chewing or swallowing
Preventing and Detecting Oral Pathology
The good news is that because the mouth is so easily accessible, oral pathologies can be caught and acted upon in the early stages. However, usually, the warning signs will only be seen if someone is looking for them. You can perform self-examinations that will help to catch any disease early. Use a bright light and a mirror to look inside your mouth. Remove any dentures if you have them, then look at and feel the inside of your lips and the gums around the teeth.
Make sure to look at the roof of your mouth and the inside of your cheeks as best you’re able to Stick your tongue out and examine it as well. Feel for lumps or enlarged lymph nodes on the sides of your neck and under the lower jaw. If you do find an abnormality, please make an appointment as soon as possible. The earlier we can examine your mouth and make a diagnosis, the better the treatment process will go if it turns out that we need to take action.
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
Oral cancer represents about 5% of all cancers reported each year. The American Cancer Society has determined the number of factors that contribute to the development of oral cancer. The biggest risk factor is chronic use of tobacco and alcohol. Other factors include poor oral hygiene, irritation from poor-fitting dentures, and bad nutrition. Any combination of these can produce an oral pathology. If you’re concerned about your oral health or think you need an examination or biopsy then make an appointment as soon as possible.
We can perform all procedures in the office, and we’ll be glad to talk you through your treatment options should you need treatment. You can contact us online or call us at 404-649-5536 or 404-491-8943.