We use our mouths for a variety of tasks, such as eating, speaking, and breathing. Consequently, our mouths have an increased risk for disorders and infections known as oral pathology. Oral pathology refers to any disease or infection that can develop inside the mouth, teeth, salivary glands, or jaws. While many oral pathologies are infectious or benign (non-cancerous), it is always best to obtain early evaluation and proper treatment of any oral irregularities to avoid severe complications or the need for a more extensive surgical procedure.
One of the most common areas that will show infection or pathology is the smooth coral pink-colored lining of the mouth called mucosa. If you notice an irregularity in the appearance of your mouth’s lining or structures, such as the cheek, lips, tongue, or tonsils, this may be a sign of a pathological process or infection.
What kind of oral pathologies should I be aware of?
You have probably heard of or even suffered from some of the most common oral pathologies such as abscessed teeth, periodontitis (gum disease), tonsillitis, strep throat, or the mumps. Other lesser known pathologies include benign lesions or growths, herpes simplex virus, salivary gland disease, cyst development, oral ulceration, and the most serious pathological process, oral cancer. While some of these pathologies can be diagnosed and treated by your general dental practitioner, an oral surgeon may be called upon to diagnose and treat more serious conditions.
Some of the most common pathologies treated by Dr. Cohen are dental infections, benign lesions, and the development of oral cysts. A dental infection may be from advanced decay, periodontal disease, or trauma. An oral cyst is a benign pathologic cavity that is filled with fluid and usually grows beneath the gum tissue or within the jaw. They are generally placed in two categories:
- Odontogenic cysts that are formed from tissues involved in tooth development
- Non-odontogenic cysts that are usually associated with facial tissue development
Many patients experience infection or cyst development in the back of their mouth near or around impacted wisdom teeth. While cysts in the mouth are generally associated with swelling or pain, they are slow growing in nature. This means that you may have had a cyst growing without your knowledge for a period of time prior to showing any symptoms.
Cysts in the oral and maxillofacial region can have a profound impact on the rest of the teeth. As cysts expand within the gum tissue or jaw bone, adjacent healthy teeth are at a higher risk of being pushed out of normal alignment. Not only does this movement affect the overall aesthetics of the mouth and smile, but it also increases the likelihood that additional infection may occur as the teeth are more difficult to keep clean. Cysts within the jaw can also cause bone or tooth root resorption. This increases the probability that a tooth or a section of your jaw bone will need to be removed and that a bone graft procedure will be necessary to replace the removed bone and tooth with a prosthesis, such as a dental implant.
How are oral pathologies diagnosed?
Oral pathologies may occur at any age, so it is important to receive regular oral examinations to detect their presence. Remember that not all of the symptoms of oral pathology are painful; however, the absence of pain does not mean that a problem does not exist. We recommend performing an oral cancer self-examination monthly and maintaining regular visits to your general dentist. Your mouth is one of your body’s most important warning systems. Do not ignore suspicious lumps or sores if you see one. A comprehensive exam to detect the presence of pathologies such as mucosal lesions, dental infections, and periodontitis can be seen, whereas cysts can be detected through X-ray examinations of the mouth and teeth. A biopsy of the affected area may be necessary for the proper diagnosis of a problem and the development of an effective treatment plan.
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are experts in the evaluation and treatment of oral pathology. Dr. Cohen has received specialty training and has had extensive experience in this practice and during his residency in the diagnosis and treatment of oral pathologies and orofacial cancer. Please schedule a consultation at our office in Houston, TX, if you suspect you may be experiencing any pathological process.
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