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Oral Pathology / Biopsy

Oral Pathology

At the time of your initial comprehensive examination and subsequent checkups, an oral exam will be performed by Dr. Wetmore. A portion of that exam will include a check for oral cancer, which would identify diseases related to the maxillofacial and oral regions. If any issue is discovered, it will provide for early management of any problem.

Because the soft tissue of the mouth is lined with mucosa, a type of skin that normally appears smooth in texture and pink in color, any changes to the color or texture may alert your dentist to the possibility of the beginning of a pathologic process. The face, neck and areas of the mouth such as tongue, gums, lips, etc., are the areas where the changes will occur. Oral cancer is the most serious oral pathologic problem and may or may not present pain. There are, however, other common issues that could be related to these changes.

Geographic Tongue

In this condition, which is sometimes referred to as Benign Migratory Glossitis or Erythema Migrans, the tongue will be missing papillae (small bumps) in certain areas, and may manifest in a map-like appearance. It will generally appear as well defined red areas on or around the sides of your tongue. This red rash can appear and re-appear from hours to months at a time and will result in increased sensitivity to various substances.

Median Palatal Cyst

A cyst, which is actually a fluid filled skin sac, generally appears in the middle of your palate and can cause much discomfort.

Hairy Tongue

Yeast infections in the mouth or excessive bacteria may cause the tongue to look black and hairy. This can be caused by chronic or extensive use of antibiotics, poor oral hygiene, or radiation treatment to head or neck areas. HIV positive patients or intravenous drug users often develop this condition. Dr. Wetmore can determine whether hairy tongue will require treatment.

Treatment of Pathological Diseases

Most pathological changes in the oral area are uncomfortable and even disfiguring, but not life threatening. Oral cancer, however, is on the rise (particularly among men) but, if diagnosed immediately, the chances of survival are approximately 80%.

Cancer that affects the jaw, tongue or lower cheek area is given the general term of oral cancer. Because Dr. Wetmore must be absolutely certain of a diagnosis of a pathological disease, a biopsy may be required which means that a small sample of the affected area will be taken and examined. If treatment is given before a proper diagnosis is made, the action may actually be life threatening. Several options are available for less serious problems such as:

  • Antibiotics – Bacterial infections or persistent soreness will generally require a dose of antibiotics to return the mucosa to its natural state to alleviate the discomfort and soreness.
  • Diluted Hydrogen Peroxide – When changes to soft tissue are caused by poor dental hygiene, Dr. Wetmore might prescribe a mouthwash of diluted hydrogen peroxide. This mouthwash kills more bacteria than regular mouthwash as well as improves halitosis (bad breath).
  • Oral Surgery – In the event of cysts or other abnormal non-cancerous growths, the best decision may be to remove them. Depending upon the location of the growth, breathing problems can be alleviated, discomfort relieved and speech made easier.

Oral Examinations and Oral Cancer Screening

Regular checkups are important to the discovery and treatment of pathological diseases. During your exam, Dr. Wetmore will pay close attention and thoroughly check the soft tissue of your mouth and note any changes. Oral cancer screening is typically completed during your exam. It is a painless process and takes only a few minutes. A laser light will be used to assess the soft tissue for any cell changes that may indicate oral cancer.

In the event of any changes, especially those that may be indicative of oral cancer, Dr. Wetmore may complete a biopsy of the affected area and it will be sent to a laboratory specialist for analysis. Typically, if cancer is found, an excision (removal) will be performed

If you have concerns from pain or other symptoms discussed, we encourage you to contact us as soon as possible for an appointment.