Oral Pathology

The structures of the face, neck and oral cavity often indicate disease processes affecting other parts of the body. There are over three hundred different diseases of the oral cavity, regardless of the cause, symptoms of disease present in very clear patterns such as: swelling, ulcers, abnormal tissue growth, vesicles (small fluid filled blisters) or a combination of these. Disease processes affecting bone structures are best examined through radiographic imaging.

The majority of cysts found in the jaw bone are odontogenic, meaning they are derived from epithelium that is related to tooth development. Non-odontogenic cysts are derived from other epithelial sources in the jaws or surrounding soft tissues. Most cysts are noncancerous and typically fairly easy to treat, however, some have the potential to be aggressive or recurrent. Odontogenic and non-odontogenic tumors in the jaw can be aggressive and destructive to the jaw bone and surrounding teeth, proper diagnosis and prompt treatment will help aide in the best possible outcome. Other lesions are classified as reactive bone lesions such as tori, a noncancerous bony growth that inhibits proper placement of dentures or inflammatory diseases like osteomyelitis caused by either acute or chronic infection of the jaw bone. Common symptoms of disease processes affecting the jaw bone are:

  • Swelling or pain in the jaw.
  • A painless, hard, slowly expanding swelling in the jaw or around the teeth.
  • Loose teeth.
  • A tooth that does not come in.

Diseases of the soft tissues of the oral cavity can be categorized in the following groups: viral, hormonal, fungal, bacterial, dermatological, pharmaceutical, systemic disease, non-cancerous growths, psychiatric disorders, cancer and genetics. The primary factor contributing to oral disease is tobacco use, however, other factors such as: alcohol use, oral hygiene, diabetes and other medical conditions affecting the immune system, medications, stress and genetics can all play a role. 

The inside of the mouth is normally lined with a special type of tissue (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 (erythroplasia) or whitish patches (leukoplakia) in the mouth.
  • A sore that fails to heal within a two week time 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.

These changes can be detected on the lips, cheeks, palate, and gum tissue around the teeth, tongue, face and/or neck. It is important to note that pain does not always occur with pathology, the most serious disease processes, including oral cancer do not always present with pain.

Do not ignore suspicious lumps or sores. Please contact us so we may help.