Oral pathology is a term for the diagnosis and management of diseases and infections affecting the mouth. Oral surgeons, like Dr. Abel, help to diagnose and, in some cases, manage patients with certain oral diseases (such as benign cysts and tumors of the jaws, teeth, and gums) or dental-related infections of the mouth, face, and neck. Typically, the skin of our face and neck is soft and pliable, while the soft tissues of our gums are pink in appearance and stippled in texture (like an orange peel). Changes in appearance or texture are usually the first warning signs of oral disease or infection.
Signs to Watch For:
- Red or white patches
- Mouth sores or ulcers that do not heal
- Lumps or masses in the gums or on the lips
- Persistent bleeding, pain, or numbness within the mouth
Patients with any of these symptoms may be at risk for oral cancer and should be evaluated.
We recommend that patients perform an oral cancer self-examination monthly to look for anything that seems abnormal. Of course, your dentist and/or hygienist will look for any suspicious lesions at your regular cleanings and check-ups. If any abnormalities are detected, you will likely be referred to an oral surgeon, like Dr. Abel, for further evaluation and treatment.
If Dr. Abel determines that you have a suspicious mouth lesion, he may recommend a “biopsy.” A biopsy consists of him obtaining a piece of the tissue in question. This procedure requires the administration of local anesthesia and, in some instances, can be supplemented with various forms of sedation. The tissue specimen is then sent to a pathologist for diagnosis. If indicated, it is essential to follow up with Dr. Abel after your biopsy procedure so that he can review the pathologist’s findings and discuss further treatment. If oral cancer is suspected, Dr. Abel will likely contact your primary care physician and/or refer you to a head and neck cancer surgeon for definitive management.