Detecting the cause of suspicious growths in the mouth is crucial to prevent future serious problems. Oral and maxillofacial lesions can be found in the oral mucosa or facial bones, such as the maxilla and mandible, and should be removed and biopsied.
Oral pathology treatments can help with conditions such as:
- Odontogenic cysts and tumors in the maxilla or mandible
- Mucosal lesions such as leukoplakia, erythroplakia, or ulcers
- Oral cancer
- Salivary gland problems
- Fungal infections
- Herpes of the mouth
- Unusual non-healing sores
- Pigmented lesions
Oral cancer refers to a type of cancer that develops in the tissues of the mouth, including the lips, tongue, cheeks, gums, and roof or floor of the mouth. It can also occur in the throat, including the tonsils and base of the tongue. Oral cancer typically begins as a painless white or red patch, a lump or a sore in the mouth that doesn't heal, but it can also cause other symptoms such as difficulty swallowing or speaking, persistent ear pain, and changes in the way teeth or dentures fit.
Risk factors for oral cancer include:
- Tobacco and alcohol use
- Prolonged sun exposure to the lips
- HPV infection
- Poor oral hygiene
- A weakened immune system
Early detection and treatment are critical for improving the chances of successful treatment and survival. Treatment for oral cancer typically involves surgery to remove the cancerous tissue, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy.
Benign Oral Pathology
Oral pathology is not limited to cancer. Benign conditions can also be addressed.
- Cold Sores: A cold sore, also known as a fever blister, is a small, painful, fluid-filled blister or cluster of blisters that typically appears on or around the lips or mouth. Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus and are highly contagious. The virus can be spread through close personal contact, such as kissing, and through sharing personal items like razors, towels, or utensils. Once a person is infected with the herpes simplex virus, they will have it for life, and cold sores may recur from time to time, especially during times of stress or illness. While there is no cure for cold sores, antiviral medications and over-the-counter creams and ointments can help reduce symptoms and speed up healing.
- Canker Sores: A canker sore, also known as an aphthous ulcer, is a small, painful sore or lesion that appears inside the mouth, usually on the inside of the lips, cheeks, or on or under the tongue. Canker sores are not contagious and are typically round or oval-shaped with a white or yellowish center and a red border. They can be quite painful and can make it difficult to eat, drink, or speak. The exact cause of canker sores is unknown, but they may be triggered by factors such as stress, injury to the mouth, hormonal changes, certain foods, and even genetics. Most canker sores heal on their own within a week or two, but over-the-counter medications, such as topical creams or oral rinses, can help relieve pain and speed up healing.
- Oral Thrush: Oral thrush, also known as oral candidiasis, is a fungal infection caused by the overgrowth of a type of yeast called Candida in the mouth. Candida normally lives in the mouth, digestive tract, and skin without causing any problems. However, if the immune system is weakened, Candida can multiply and cause an infection. Oral thrush typically appears as white or yellowish patches or plaques on the tongue, gums, or inner cheeks. The affected area may also be red and sore. Oral thrush is most common in infants, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or who are undergoing chemotherapy. Treatment usually involves antifungal medications, such as topical creams, oral suspensions, or lozenges.
To ensure oral health, we recommend monthly oral cancer self-exams and seeking prompt medical attention for any suspicious sores or lumps. The mouth is an important warning system for the body, and changes should not be ignored. If you have concerns, don't hesitate to contact a specialist for a consultation.
An oral biopsy is a tissue sample gathered from an abnormality in the mouth and is sent to a lab to undergo further testing. The procedure would be required when a dentist cannot diagnose the problem by examination, X-rays, and symptoms alone.
There are two types of oral biopsies:
- Incisional biopsies remove part of a larger mass
- Excisional biopsies remove the entire lump or growth
If you've noticed a change that you feel could be a sign of a change in your oral pathology, don't hesitate to call us at (760) 295-4840. We'll set up a consultation to find out exactly what's going on in your mouth.