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Oral Pathology


Happy Patients at Rai Oral Surgery & Dental Implants

What is Oral Pathology?


Oral pathology is one of nine specialties within dentistry recognized by the American Dental Association. The term can also refer to the conditions of oral disease. Oral pathology handles diseases in the oral structures (teeth, cheeks, and lips), maxillofacial areas (jaws and face) and even parts of the neck. Periodontitis and cavities are two of the most common dental diseases. Oral pathologists investigate causes and effects to treat those diseases and teach patients how to prevent them.

What are the Causes of Oral Cancer?


Cancers in the head and neck regions only represent about 5% of the cancers reported each year. Research has uncovered some factors that lead to oral cancer:
•  Chronic tobacco and alcohol use (this is the most common cause by far)
•  Inadequate oral hygiene
•  Inadequate nutrition
•  Irritation caused by rough surfaces on teeth and dentures that fit improperly
•  Any combination of the above factors

Studies have shown that smokers are four times more likely to die from oral cancer than nonsmokers. The good news is that since the mouth is so easily accessible, we can detect abnormalities in the early stages of development. Also, most disease processes in this region are benign and remedied by medication or simple surgical procedures.

What are the Warning Signs of Oral Cancer?


The following are signs of oral cancer. Watch out for any of them appearing on the face, neck, cheeks, lips, tongue, palate, and gum tissue lining the teeth:
•  Red patches (erythroplasia)
•  White patches (leukoplakia)
•  Sores that do not heal and bleeds readily
•  Lumps or thick skin on the inside of the mouth
•  Constant sore throat or hoarseness
•  Difficulty chewing or swallowing

Interestingly enough, pain is not always necessary to diagnose pathology and is often not associated with oral cancer. However, a patient with pain in their face or mouth with no apparent cause is also at risk for oral cancer.

How is Oral Cancer Prevented?


It is better to prevent cancer in its early stages than treat it in later stages. Regular self-examinations are very helpful in identifying symptoms of oral diseases. The easy accessibility of the mouth allows for this, but keep in mind that we can’t easily find something unless we know what we’re looking for.

To perform a self-examination, go to a bathroom mirror with plenty of light and follow the following steps:
•  If you are wearing any dentures, removable retainers or clear aligners, remove them
•  Examine and feel the inside of your lips and the front of your gums surrounding your teeth
•  Tilt your head back to examine and feel the roof of your mouth
•  Pull out your cheeks to look at the insides and back gums
•  Stick out your tongue and look at all its surfaces
•  Feel the neck and under your lower jaw for lumps or enlarged lymph nodes (glands)

We can remedy many oral complications if we catch them in the early stages. If you have any questions about oral pathology or if you think you may have symptoms of the oral disease, please contact our office today at (757) 777-9883.






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