An oral exam is routinely performed by your general dentist during the course of an initial comprehensive exam and regular check-ups. An oral cancer exam refers to the identification and management of diseases pertaining to the maxillofacial and oral regions.
The soft tissue of the mouth is normally lined with mucosa, which is special type of skin that should appear smooth in texture and pink in color. Any alteration of the color or texture of the mucosa may signal the beginning of a pathologic process. These changes may occur on the face, neck, and areas of the mouth (e.g., gums, tongue, lips, etc.). The most serious of these pathologic changes (which may or may not be painful) is oral cancer.
1. Reddish patches (erythroplasia) or whitish patches (leukoplakia) in the mouth
2. A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily
3. A lump or thickening on the skin lining the inside of the mouth
4. Chronic sore throat or hoarseness
5. Difficulty in chewing or swallowing
6. Decreased mouth opening – oral submucus fibrosis
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. However, any patient with facial and/or oral pain without an obvious cause or reason may also be at risk for oral cancer.
In the majority of cases, the pathological changes experienced in the oral region are uncomfortable and disfiguring, but not life threatening. However, oral cancer is on the rise (especially among men) and the chances of survival are around 80% if an immediate diagnosis is made. Oral cancer is a general term used when referring to any type of cancer affecting the tongue, jaw, and lower cheek area.
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon manages a wide variety of pathology associated with the oral cavity. Patients are often referred by their dentist or physician for management of soft or hard tissue abnormalities. Soft tissue lesions generally involve ulcers, patches, Lumps, and discoloration on the gums, lips, cheek, tongue or salivary glands. Hard tissue pathology encompasses alterations in teeth or bone.
Abnormal changes in the mouth typically are detected early as the oral cavity is readily accessible. Tissue changes do not always mean cancer, but certainly need to evaluated promptly to determine the etiology. Performing self-examinations regularly is encouraged to aid in early recognition.
1. White or red patches
2. Sore that fails to heal
3. Friable and bleeds easily
4. Lump or thickening of the tissues
Many lesions associated with the soft tissue can be excised and sampled through a biopsy. Hard tissue lesions often are cysts associated with the development or eruption of impacted teeth or an abated attempt at tooth formation. These lesions are often unrecognized until a radiograph sheds light on there existence. A consultation provides an opportunity to review the history (onset, changes, previous treatment), examine the suspicious area and review treatment options.
A biopsy is an office procedure that involves the removal of the suspicious tissue either in entirety or a representative sample. The specimens are placed in preservative and sent to an oral pathologist for microscopic examination. The biopsy report provides a diagnosis and enables our team to create a prompt and focused treatment plan based on the findings. The treatment plan may range from routine interval observation to additional treatment. Biopsy results are typically returned in 1 week and patients are notified as soon as it is available. A follow up examination is traditionally scheduled to both evaluate healing and review the pathology diagnosis and prognosis.