What is oral pathology?

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, nearly 37,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year. To achieve the best outcomes, patients with oral cancer should be treated as early as possible. Even precancerous or benign changes in the oral tissues should be monitored closely by a dentist or oral surgeon to ensure that a more serious condition does not develop.

Oral pathology is the dental specialty that focuses on identifying and understanding these disease processes in the mouth. A healthy mouth is lined with a smooth, pink layer of mucosa, which is a special type of cell. Dentists may be concerned about oral cancer if there are any abnormalities in the mucosa. Cancer can develop in any of the mouth’s tissues, from the gums to the tongue to the underlying bone.

Patients who visit their Charlottesville dentists for semiannual checkups have more opportunities for their dentists or oral surgeons to detect oral cancer or other pathology in the earliest stages, when the problem is most treatable. During each visit, your dentist will examine your entire mouth for any signs of issues, such as red or white patches, a sore that doesn’t heal or lumps or thickening. The dentist may also ask you about other symptoms of oral cancer, such as a chronic sore throat or difficulty swallowing.

After identifying a suspicious spot or mass, your dentist or oral surgeon will conduct a biopsy, removing a tissue sample and sending it to an oral pathologist who will examine the cells for signs of malignancy.

Patients can do their part to decrease their chances of developing oral cancer by conducting self-exams on a regular basis. Closely examine all of your visible oral tissues for any changes or new spots or bumps. If you find an area of concern, schedule an appointment with your dentist for further investigation. This is particularly important for people who smoke or drink heavily, as those groups face a higher risk of developing oral cancer.

Identifying oral cancer early, before it metastasizes to other tissues in the body, can save a patient’s life. You can partner with Dr. Carlos Rafael Ibañez to catch any instances of oral cancer before they develop into greater problems.

To learn more and to schedule a consultation with Dr. Ibañez, please call 434-295-0911 today.

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