Oral Pathology

What is oral pathology?

The term “pathology” is defined as the study of disease states, so “oral pathology” refers to disease states that are found in the mouth and associated anatomical structures. Patients who have routine dental and medical appointments often have an oral examination as part of their ongoing care.  When the physician, dentist, nurse practitioner or dental hygienist finds abnormal appearing oral tissue, the patient is often referred to the oral and maxillofacial surgeon for further evaluation and possible biopsy.  Oral pathology conditions are also often found on routine medical and dental x-rays.

What is a biopsy?

A biopsy is a procedure whereby a small, representative sample of the abnormal tissue is removed and submitted to a pathologist for microscopic examination and diagnosis.  Many oral tissue biopsies can be performed under local anesthetic alone, but some require IV sedation for maximum comfort, due to the location of the area in question or difficulty in gaining access.  After the tissue sample is submitted for examination, the pathologist will issue a written report and diagnosis.  Once the diagnosis is obtained, options for further treatment will be discussed between the patient and oral surgeon.

What if I need additional treatment?

After biopsy, additional treatment might include monitoring the condition, surgery to change or remove the condition, or referral to a different surgical specialist for treatment.  If your biopsy results in a diagnosis of cancer, you will be referred to the appropriate head and neck cancer specialist.  If your biopsy results in a non-cancer diagnosis, then our clinicians will likely manage your additional treatment.