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Oral Pathology

A Word about Oral Care

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.

Factors that may cause Cancer

Research has identified a number of factors that may contribute to the development of oral cancer. The most common are human papilloma virus (HPV), as well as tobacco and alcohol use. Others include poor oral hygiene, irritation caused by ill-fitting dentures, and rough surfaces on teeth, poor nutrition, some chronic infections and combinations of these factors.

Studies have shown that the death rate from oral cancer is about four times higher for cigarette smokers than for nonsmokers. It is also widely believed in the medical field that the heat generated by smoking pipes and cigars irritate the mouth and can lead to lip cancer.

Those at an especially high risk of developing oral cancer are over 40 years of age, heavy drinkers and smokers, or users of smokeless tobacco, including snuff.

An oral examination is performed using bright light and a mirror:

  • remove any dentures
  • look and feel inside the lips and the front of gums
  • tilt head back to inspect and feel the roof of your mouth
  • pull the cheek out to see its inside surface as well as the back of the gums
  • pull out your tongue and look at all of its surfaces
  • feel for lumps or enlarged lymph nodes (glands) in both sides of the neck including under the lower jaw

Early Detection and Treatment Provides a Better Chance for Cure

When performing an oral cancer self-examination, look for the following:

  • white patches of the oral tissues-leukoplakia
  • red patches-erythroplakia
  • red and white patches-erythroleukoplakis
  • a sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily
  • an abnormal lump or thickening of the tissues of the mouth
  • chronic sore throat or hoarseness
  • difficulty in chewing or swallowing
  • a mass or lump in the neck

See your Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon if you have any of these signs. If the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon agrees that something looks suspicious, a biopsy may be recommended. A biopsy involves the removal of a piece of the suspicious tissue, which is then sent to a pathology laboratory for a microscopic examination that will accurately diagnose the problem. The biopsy report not only helps establish a diagnosis, but also enables the doctor to develop a specific plan of treatment.