Oral pathology can occur in the soft tissue (gums, salivary glands, nerves, vessels, muscle, etc) or in the hard tissue (teeth and bone). Your dentist should perform a yearly oral cancer screening for all patients and every six months for high risk patients. When performing this screening, they may notice something out of the ordinary and send you to see us for a further evaluation. The most serious pathology is oral cancer, but there is an array of different anomalies that can occur that are not cancerous. Most often, the only way to be certain of the diagnosis is to have a pathologist look at the tissue under a microscope.
When you come see us for a consultation, we will perform xrays and an examination to determine if you need a biopsy. If you do need a biopsy, typically the procedure itself is very minor and can be completed quickly under local anesthesia and you can go back to school or work the same day. The biopsy is sent to the oral pathologist who will evaluate the tissue under the microscope and provide the definitive diagnosis.
We understand this experience is scary for our patients because of the possibility of cancer. There are many different growths, inflammatory reactions, cysts, and benign tumors that can occur in the mouth which are not cancerous. These still often require biopsy, but may not be reason for concern. Having a definitive diagnosis from the biopsy can provide peace of mind to our patients. If you are unfortunately diagnosed with cancer, please know you have a multitude of treatment options at your disposal and we will ensure you are referred to the appropriate cancer team. Treatment is always easiest when the pathology is small, so please don’t delay your health. Come see us and we will partner with you through this process.