Dentists routinely perform oral health examinations during initial comprehensive assessments or during regular check-up appointments. They sometimes find it necessary to refer patients on to oral surgeons for further examination and management of soft or hard tissue abnormalities. Soft tissue lesions generally involve ulcers, patches, bumps, and discoloration on the gingivae (gums), palate, lips, cheek, tongue or salivary glands. Hard tissue pathology refers to changes in the teeth or jaw bone. Radiographic imagery is often required to reveal the presence of hard tissue or bone lesions.
The dentist and/or oral surgeon may look for the following pathologic signs:
- Red or white areas or patches in the mouth (called erythroplasia or leukoplakia).
- A sore that fails to heal (or keeps recurring) and bleeds easily.
- An abnormal lump or thickening of the tissues of the mouth.
- Chronic sore throat or hoarseness.
- Difficulty in chewing or swallowing.
These changes can be detected on the lips, cheeks, palate, and gum tissue around the teeth. Pain does not always occur with pathology and is often not associated with oral cancer. However, it is recommended that any patient with facial and/or oral pain without an obvious cause undergo examination by his or her dentist or oral surgeon.
If a suspicious area is found, Dr. Steven Hribernik or William Gray will take a biopsy of the affected area for targeted laboratory analysis by clinical specialists. When definitive results are obtained, the oral surgeon will consult with you on the best course of treatment. Further treatment may or may not be necessary depending upon the diagnosis. The oral surgeons will discuss the findings and allow you ample opportunity to present all questions or concerns.