Texas Oral
Surgery Group

Oral Pathology

Most of us take our mouths for granted, not realizing how complex the structure is. From your jawbone and gum to your teeth and tongue, there are so many elements to care for, that to properly diagnose potential issues calls for a specialist. At Texas Oral Surgery Group, we have a team of experts with decades of experience in oral pathology in Plano, Texas.

What is Oral Pathology?

Oral Pathology deals with the nature, identification, and management of diseases affecting the oral and maxillofacial regions. The human body contains as much anatomy from the shoulders up, as it does from the shoulders down, and it is all confined in a very small space. It takes specialized training and attention to detail to be able to identify and diagnose potential diseases of the mouth and jaw structure.

Because of the unique nature of the jaw structure with their associated teeth, there are a whole host of pathologic conditions that can arise from the teeth and its related parts. Most of these lesions are benign in nature, but some can be quite aggressive and in rare cases, can be cancerous. Only a thorough evaluation by a qualified practitioner can determine whether there is pathology present. Oral and Maxillofacial surgeons, by virtue of being the only hospital based surgical specialty of dentistry have unparalleled knowledge and skills when it comes to the diagnosis and management of oral pathologic conditions.  These examinations require a thorough clinical evaluation and specialized radiographic studies, including possible cone beam CT scans to make a diagnosis.

What are the Signs of Oral Diseases?

The inside of the mouth is usually lined with a particular 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 (erythroplakia) 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
  • Lumps in the tissue surrounding your lips or under the jawline.

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 until later in the disease process. However, any patient with facial and/or oral pain without an apparent cause or reason may also be at risk for oral cancer.

How Often Should I Receive an Oral Cancer Screening?

Slightly more than 53,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer annually. Overall, the lifetime risk of developing oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer is: about 1 in 60 (1.7%) for men and 1 in 140 (0.71%) for women. There has been an increase specifically in oropharyngeal cancers associated with human papillomavirus (HPV) infection in both men and women.

A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of developing cancer.  Knowing your risk factors and talking about them with our doctors can help you make more informed lifestyle choices.

The following are risk factors for development of oral cancer:

Tobacco use. Using tobacco, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, and snuff, is the single largest risk factor for head and neck cancer.

Alcohol. Frequent and heavy consumption of alcohol increases the risk of head and neck cancer. Using alcohol and tobacco together multiplies this risk.

Prolonged sun exposure. High exposure to the sun, without sun proper protection measures, is linked with cancer of the lip. Any cracking or white patches of the lower or upper lips should be evaluated.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a risk factor for oropharyngeal cancer. In recent years, HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer in the tonsils and the base of the tongue has become the most common cause for oral pharyngeal cancer, even surpassing those from alcohol and tobacco! The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends routine HPV vaccination for adolescents.

Gender. Men are more likely to develop oral and oropharyngeal cancers than women.

Fair skin. Fair skin is linked to a higher risk of lip cancer.

Poor oral hygiene. Lack of dental care and not following regular oral hygiene practices may cause an increased risk of oral cavity cancer. Poor dental health or ongoing irritation from poorly fitting dentures, especially in people who use alcohol and tobacco products, may contribute to an increased risk of oral and oropharyngeal cancer.

Poor diet/nutrition. A diet low in fruits and vegetables and a vitamin A deficiency may increase the risk of oral and oropharyngeal cancer. Chewing betel nuts, a nut containing a mild stimulant that is popular in Asia, also raises a person’s risk of developing oral and oropharyngeal cancer.

Weakened immune system. People with a weakened immune system may have a higher risk of developing oral and oropharyngeal cancer.

If you have any of these risk factors, you are a greater risk for developing an oral cancer and therefore need to have an oral cancer screening evaluation performed. This is a simple test done at chair side and can help to identify any areas that might be suspicious.  Any lump, bump, red or white patch, or ulceration that has been present for more than 2 weeks, should at least be looked at to make sure that it is nothing more serious.

We at Texas Oral Surgery Group recommend that you do an oral cancer self-evaluation monthly, and have your dentists perform an oral cancer screening evaluation on at least an annual basis.  These simple exams can help identify any suspicious areas that might warrant further biopsy or treatment.

One of the adages that was taught in school is, “lumps and bumps belong in bottles” and that still rings true today!

If you have the area in the head and neck region or oral cavity that you suspect could be dangerous, please do not wait. Visit our team at Texas Oral Surgery Group for a comprehensive oral exam. Get in touch today to learn more!

Do You Have Concerns Regarding your Wisdom Teeth in or near Plano, Denton, Decatur, or Gainesville TX?

Texas Oral Surgery Group assists patients with wisdom teeth issues on a routine basis. With extensive training in all types of wisdom teeth surgeries, Dr. Larry Stewart and Dr. Wayne Michael are equipped to handle any complications. Give us a call today for an evaluation.

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