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Oral Pathology

The practice of oral and maxillofacial surgery encompasses diagnosis and treatment of all oral and head and neck cancers, lesions, or masses.

What should I be looking for in my mouth?
The inside of the mouth is normally lined with a special type of skin (mucosa) that is smooth and pink in color. Any alteration in this appearance could be a warning sign of a pathological process. A typical oral lesion would be a white spot, ulcer, swelling or mass which has not healed, or has changed in size or appearance.  

When is it necessary to treat an oral lesion?
Usually, a suspicious lesion is biopsied and a pathologic diagnosis is obtained prior to planning surgical treatment or other therapeutic modalities. Lesions which are of low risk for malignancy will often be completely excised at the first surgical appointment to obtain a pathologic diagnosis. The most serious type of lesion is oral cancer. Oral cancer makes up only about 5% of all cancerous lesions, but has a low survival rate and high incidence of metastasis (spread to other sites). Thus, it is important to identify and treat all oral lesions very early. Early detection and treatment mean a better chance of cure.

What are the common risk factors?
Smoking, drinking alcohol, advanced age, family history of cancer, and previous history of certain types of cancerous lesions are all considered significant risk factors when assessing a suspicious lesion. Other risk factors may include poor hygiene, irritation caused by ill-fitting dentures, poor nutrition or any combination of the above.

What should be done if my dentist finds a suspicious lesion?
If you or your dentist have identified an unusual lesion or mass in your mouth or other facial area, then a consultation with Dr. Pitts should be arranged as soon as possible. Dr. Pitts will perform a full head and neck exam and take any necessary x-rays. Should he agree that the lesion looks suspicious, a biopsy may be recommended.  

What is a biopsy?
This is a procedure that involves the removal of a piece of the suspicious tissue. The procedure is usually quick, easy and can be performed with local anesthesia. The piece is then sent to a pathology laboratory for microscopic examination in order to make an accurate diagnosis of the problem. The biopsy report not only helps in establishing a diagnosis, but enables Dr. Pitts to make a treatment plan specifically designed for the type of lesion diagnosed. Dr. Pitts has had extensive training and experience treating all types of oral, salivary gland, and head and neck tumors and lesions, and his Board certification encompasses the practice of diagnosis and treatment of all types of head and neck cancer.


Click on any of the links listed below for more information about oral cancer, treatment and support:

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


AAOMS link
ABOMS Link