Oral Pathology Helps Us Catch Problems Early

A father and his son standing outside wearing light-colored clothing.Oral Pathology is an area of dentistry that studies health of the mouth, as well as diagnosis and treatment of oral diseases.  The oral cavity, salivary glands and jaw are prone to medical and dental disorders.

The inside of the mouth is normally lined with mucosa, a special type of skin that is smooth and pink. Any alteration in appearance could be a warning sign of a pathological process. Often, a microscopic evaluation is needed and a biopsy is taken and observed by a pathologist.

Signs of the beginning of a pathologic process or cancerous growth include reddish patches or whitish patches in the mouth, a sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily, lumps or thickening on the skin lining the inside of the mouth, chronic sore throat/hoarseness or difficulty in chewing or swallowing. These changes can be detected on the lips, cheeks, palate, gum tissue around teeth, tongue, face and neck. Diagnosis of oral cancer is usually made with a biopsy. Pain is often associated with oral cancer but does not always occur with other types of oral pathology. Facial or mouth pain without an obvious cause or reason may be a sign of oral cancer. Patients that smoke, chew tobacco and are heavy drinkers are at increased risk of cancer.

Salivary gland diseases can be major or minor. Saliva is produced to moisten the mouth, to help protect teeth from decay and to process food by making swallowing and digestion easier. A common salivary gland disorder is when ducts are unable to drain because small stones block them. Salivary glands can also become infected or inflamed, which can be painful.  This condition typically occurs in infants or older adults and can become severe if not treated. Tumors can occur in the salivary glands and are generally non-cancerous.

Another mouth disorder is Herpes Simplex Infection (HSV). Oral herpes are commonly known as cold sores or fever blisters.  When initially exposed to and infected with oral herpes, the infection becomes permanent.  Over time, outbreaks become infrequent and less severe but the virus still can be transmitted at any time. Treatments with antivirals are highly successful

Keep in mind that your mouth is one of your body's most important early warning systems. Don't ignore any suspicious lumps or sores. Should you discover something, make an appointment for a prompt examination. Early treatment may well be the key to complete recovery. Oral surgeons and dentists recommend performing oral cancer self-examination monthly.

Schedule an evaluation

If you have questions or would like more information about oral pathology call and schedule an evaluation with Dr. Urig at Bonita Medical Center
505-988-2121.

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