What You Need to Know About Oral Pathology
Pathology refers to the in-depth study of the origin and nature of all types of disease. Oral and maxillofacial pathology encompasses all aspects of maladies of the mouth, jaw and facial tissues. This includes research and analysis of cause, stages of development, complications, diagnosis and avenues of treatment that will work most effectively for the patient.
Detecting Oral and Maxillofacial Disease
In some cases, the surgeon will be able to determine what type of disease is affecting a patient through evaluation of symptoms and the patient’s medical history. This is one of the most commonly utilized elements of oral pathology. There are some cases, however, in which a biopsy of the affected area must be taken in order to accurately determine the nature of the disease present. A biopsy is the sole manner in which a diagnosis can be considered definitive.
During the biopsy, a small portion of tissue is removed from the area in which signs or symptoms are suspected to denote disease. Depending on the nature of the suspected problem, this tissue may consist of soft tissue, bone from the jaw or a combination of both. The biopsy is generally performed with the assistance of local or general anesthesia to ensure patient comfort during the brief procedure. The specimen is then examined in a pathology lab, a process that typically takes about ten days to complete. Results are delivered to the surgeon for assessment and review.
When the surgeon has completed the review of the lab results, the patient returns to the office to discuss the findings. The surgeon will use the results to make a definitive diagnosis of the disease as well as a treatment plan.
Prevention Tips for Patients
In many cases, avoiding cancers and other severe medical conditions of the mouth is possible. Early detection is a key factor in the success of treatment. Patients are encouraged to regularly perform self-checks at home, keeping an eye out for the common indicators of oral cancer. This simple home exam can be performed as follows:
- Remove oral prosthetic devices such as dentures, removable bridges, retainers, etc.
- Using a mirror and a bright light, examine the inside surfaces of the lips and the fronts of the gums.
- Examine the roof of the the mouth and feel for any abnormalities in shape.
- Gently but firmly pull the corners of the mouth outward to examine the inside of the cheeks and the areas at which they connect to the gums.
- Examine all surfaces of the tongue, sticking it out as far as is comfortable.
- Any unusual bumps, enlargements, discolorations or lesions should be reported to a qualified oral and maxillofacial surgeon immediately.
Other symptoms of conditions that may be associated with oral cancer include red or white patches, persistent bleeding of open sores in the mouth, sore throat that does not go away and pain while chewing food or swallowing.
If a problem is detected in its early stages and a treatment plan is implemented soon thereafter, the patient’s risk of serious complications is decreased significantly. Staying informed regarding oral pathology, its various components and the signs of potential disease is one of the most effective ways of reducing your risk.
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