What Is Oral Pathology? Everything You Need to Know

Have you considered which specialist takes care of your oral health?

You might think that it’s a job for your general dentist, and that’s partially true, but what about problems that extend beyond your teeth? The World Health Organization (WHO) point to oral disease as a major health burden, affecting almost 3.5 billion people. Oral cancer of the lip or mouth is one of the three most common cancers in some countries.

We’re going to help you understand all about oral pathology and how to look out for the warning signs. Read on!

What Is Oral Medicine and Pathology?

Firstly, let’s examine what is meant by oral pathology. Oral pathology is both a specialism of dentistry and a discipline of pathology.

Oral medicine is the area of dentistry that focuses on oral health care for complex medical needs. Pathology is the study of cause and effect as it relates to disease or injury. This field concerns the nature of diseases, and their identification and management.

In practice, an oral pathologist researches and diagnoses diseases via examination. Research methods include clinical exams, radiography, microscopy, and biochemical testing.

An oral surgeon (who is also an oral pathologist) diagnoses and treats diseases, injuries, and mouth defects. Surgical interventions could involve function or be cosmetic. Oral surgeons perform on both the soft and hard tissues of the mouth. 

What Is Considered Oral Pathology?

Let’s get a little more specific and answer: “What is oral and maxillofacial pathology?” Maxillofacial is a term that refers to the face and jaws, whereas oral means the mouth only.

Examples of maxillofacial procedures include corrective jaw surgery, temporomandibular (TMJ) procedures and facial trauma. Some oral procedures are dental implants, wisdom teeth removal, and bone grafting.

Oral pathology covers the inner lining of the mouth and the skin surrounding it. It also includes the tongue, lips, gums, saliva glands, and teeth. Maxillofacial pathology concerns the facial muscles, joints, face, and neck.

If you have mouth pain that doesn’t seem directly connected to a tooth issue, an oral pathologist might well be the one looking for answers. 

Bleeding is another symptom that’s easy to spot but not always easy to treat. In some cases, an oral pathologist may examine your medical records and notice any medications that may be causing your symptoms.

Dry mouth, for example, can, in turn, cause gingivitis, which can progress to gum disease. Many medications can cause this as a side-effect, so the oral pathologist would treat both the cause and the effect. 

Disorders that fall under oral pathology include Bell’s palsy, a temporary inability to control facial muscles. Psoriasis, a skin disease that causes rapid skin cell multiplication, is also treated by oral pathologists. If your teeth have size issues, are impacted or embedded, then oral pathology has the answers.

Bacterial, fungal, and viral infections are also treated by an oral pathologist. 

What Is a Dental Oral Pathology?

A specialist in oral pathology has training in both general medicine and dentistry. They can examine the outside of the mouth, as well as inside it. During general dental checkups, a visual and tactile inspection may reveal a suspected cyst or tumor.

An x-ray may also reveal a suspicious abnormality in the tissue, and a biopsy may be required to verify the diagnosis. An oral surgeon with training in pathology has the expertise to diagnose and treat any abnormalities.

Lab testing may be required for scientific analysis. Your overall health is also a factor in determining the causes of oral health problems. Conversely, your overall health can be seriously impacted by poor oral health.

The risk factors that can trigger oral diseases include a poor diet, bad oral health, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption. The symptoms of oral disease may present as pain, infection, cavities, gum disease, or tooth loss. The red flags associated with cancer include discoloration to the tongue/gums, open wounds, and lumps.

How to Examine Your Mouth

Daily self-examination is a good habit to form, perhaps before you brush your teeth. First, you’ll need to take out any removable dental appliances, such as dentures, bridges, and retainers.

Find an area of your home with bright lighting and use a mirror to look inside your mouth. Ensure your hands are clean, and gently pull your cheeks away from your mouth. Do the same with your lips, examining both your gums and the inner tissues of your oral cavity.

Periodontal disease is the most common finding and can cause serious infections and loss of teeth if untreated. Look for the early stage, known as gingivitis. This may be evident as inflammation of the gums and is reversible with help from an oral pathologist.

Tumors are commonly benign, but if noticed, should always be checked out by a professional. Remember that even the most serious diseases, such as lesions and cancers are treatable when spotted and checked quickly. Any difficulty with chewing your food, swallowing, or speaking, is a cause for concern. 

Here’s what else to look for:

  • Receding or bleeding gums
  • Changes in color or appearance of your mouth and face
  • A persistent sore throat
  • Patches or lumps that might be red or white
  • Lesions and sores that refuse to heal

Protect your health by engaging in good oral hygiene practices.

You should brush your teeth twice daily for two minutes and floss once. A bi-annual dental exam and cleaning are recommended, along with healthy eating, good hydration, and plenty of sleep. Avoid or limit sugar intake, alcohol consumption, and smoking.

What Is Oral Pathology?

We hope we’ve answered your question: “What is oral pathology?” Don’t ignore any warning signs the next time you examine your mouth.

If you’re worried about a recent change in your oral health, we can help you. We are an oral surgery in Phoenix, Arizona, specializing in oral pathology. Our motto is: Changing faces, changing lives!

Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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