Oral pathology is the study of diseases that affect the oral cavity – including the lips, gums, teeth, and jaws. At MassOMS, our focus on oral pathology surrounds the diagnosis and treatment of disease through examination, biopsy, and surgery. We evaluate patients through biopsies of suspicious lesions, as well as perform other diagnostic testing when needed. Our ultimate goal is to provide our patients with the most accurate diagnosis and the best treatment options available in Massachusetts.
To learn more about oral pathology or to schedule an appointment, please contact us today.
Common Oral Disease
Oral diseases can encompass a wide range of conditions, from relatively benign growths or lesions to more serious conditions that can threaten a person’s overall health. Some of the most common oral diseases include:
- Cavities: Also known as tooth decay, cavities occur when the hard outer enamel of the tooth breaks down, allowing bacteria to enter and cause an infection. Cavities are the most common chronic disease found in children and teens.
- Gum disease: Gum disease is an infection of the gums that can lead to tooth loss. It is often caused by plaque, a sticky film of food and bacteria that forms on teeth and, if not removed, transforms into tartar.
- Mouth sores: Mouth sores can be caused by a variety of conditions, including infection, allergies, and certain medications. The most common type of mouth sore is a canker sore, which is a small, painful ulcer that usually heals within a week or two.
- Oral cancer: Oral cancer includes abnormal, malignant cell growth of the lips, tongue, cheek, floor of the mouth, and hard and soft palate.
While many of the above diseases are typically treated in a dental practice or resolved on their own, oral cancer is much more serious and requires the attention of an oral surgeon. In these cases, early detection is key to the successful treatment of oral cancer.
Warning Signs of Oral Cancer
One of the earliest signs of oral cancer is a sore or an ulcer in the mouth that doesn’t heal. This can happen anywhere in the mouth, including on the tongue, gums, or lips. Other symptoms include:
- A lump or area of swelling in the cheek
- White or red patches on the gums, tongue, or roof of the mouth
- A feeling that something is caught in the throat
- Difficulty swallowing or chewing
- Weight loss
- Ear pain
- Swollen lymph nodes
Oral cancer can occur at any age, but it is most common in people over the age of 40. Tobacco use, heavy alcohol use, and a history of oral cancer are all risk factors for the disease.
We recommend that patients regularly perform a self-examination to ensure they catch any problems early. Not only will this help to proactively recognize oral cancer, but it can ensure treatment is quickly provided for any oral issue. Below are some tips on how to perform a self-examination at home:
- Examine your lips and cheeks for any swelling or redness.
- Look at your gums for any bleeding or inflammation.
- Feel along your jawline for any lumps or tenderness.
- Run your tongue along the roof of your mouth and inside your cheeks, feeling for any sores or growths.
- Use a mirror to examine the back of your throat for any redness or swelling.
If you notice anything unusual, make an appointment with your dentist right away. They will be able to provide a more thorough examination and determine if there is cause for concern. From there, we can perform our own diagnosis and set you up for treatment if necessary.