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Oral Pathology

The diagnosis of pathology is an important part Dr. Vaughan's practice. If indicated, biopsies and other tests can be performed to diagnose problems and develop appropriate treatment plans. Early detection and treatment of oral lesions greatly improve the patient's overall outcome. Lesions may be managed medically and/or surgically.

The inside of the mouth is normally lined with a special type of skin (mucosa) that is smooth and coral pink in color. Any alteration in this appearance could be a warning sign for a pathological process. The most serious of these is oral cancer.

These changes can be detected on the lips, cheeks, palate and gum tissue around the teeth, tongue, face and/or neck. Pain does not always occur with pathology, and curiously, is not often associated with oral cancer. However, any patient with facial and/or oral pain without an obvious cause or reason may also be at risk for oral cancer.

Signs of Oral Cancer

signs of oral cancer (a) white patches of the oral tissues — leukoplakia
signs of oral cancer (b) red and white patches — erythroleukoplakia
signs of oral cancer
signs of oral cancer (c) and (d) — an abnormal lump or thickening of the tissues of the mouth
signs of oral cancer (e) — a mass or lump in the neck

Oral Cancer

We would recommend performing an oral cancer self-examination monthly and remember that your mouth is one of your body's most important warning systems.

Because the mouth is a region where changes can be easily seen, oral cancer can be detected in its early stages. Early recognition and detection of oral cancer greatly increases the chance for cure.

Do not ignore suspicious lumps or sores. Please contact us so we may help.

Perform a Self-Exam Monthly

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons recommend that everyone perform an oral cancer self-exam each month. If you are at high risk for oral cancer — smoker, consumer of alcohol, user of smokeless tobacco, or snuff — you should see your general dentist or oral and maxillofacial surgeon for an annual exam.

An oral examination is performed using a bright light and a mirror:

  • remove any dentures
  • look and feel inside the lips and the front of gums
  • tilt head back to inspect and feel the roof of your mouth
  • pull the cheek out to see its inside surface as well as the back of the gums
  • pull out your tongue and look at all of its surfaces
  • feel for lumps or enlarged lymph nodes (glands) in both sides of the neck including under the lower jaw

Look for These Changes or Signs

When performing an oral cancer self-examination, look for the following:

  • white patches of the oral tissues — leukoplakia (figure a)
  • red patches — erythroplakia
  • red and white patches — erythroleukoplakia (figure b)
  • a sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily
  • an abnormal lump or thickening of the tissues of the mouth (figures c and d)
  • chronic sore throat or hoarseness
  • difficulty in chewing or swallowing
  • a mass or lump in the neck (figure e)

Contact us and/or your dentist if you have any of these signs.

Early treatment may well be the key to complete recovery.

© 2005 American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS). All rights reserved.

Oral Infections

The mouth contains some of the most varied and vast microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, and viruses) in the entire human body and is the main entrance for 2 systems vital to human function: the gastrointestinal and respiratory systems.

Dental decay is not usually a life-threatening disease; however, if a tooth/oral infection spreads, patients are at risk for deep tissue and blood infections (sepsis), and airway compromise.

Tooth/oral infections can quickly change from mild to severe. If you have been diagnosed with or suspect you have a tooth/oral infection, it is best to seek treatment immediately.

Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns