Most of us do not spend much time thinking about what a healthy mouth looks like. For many of us, as long as we are not in any discomfort, we do not think much about our mouths at all! As oral surgeons, however, we do spend quite a bit of time looking inside mouths and determining what is healthy and what is not. This area of study that diagnoses and treats diseases of the mouth is a branch of dental medicine known as oral pathology.
When we here at Stamford Oral & Maxillofacial Surgical Arts see a patient who has a mouth that is not falling within the normal criteria of good health, we can quickly diagnose and help treat any oral illnesses or diseases that we may find in their mouths.
What do I Need to Know About Oral Pathology?
We can tell a lot about your oral health by looking into your mouth at your oral mucosa, the skin that resides inside it. A healthy mouth has a mucosa that is smooth, pink, and free of any visible signs of infection or disease. When that mucosa no longer presents as smooth and pink, that tells us that there may be something going on with your oral health. You may be developing signs of an infection, disease, or even cancer.
During your exam, we will carefully assess the inside of your mouth and take note of our findings. Clues that may indicate to us that you have some degree of oral pathology include white patches (also known as leukoplakia) in your mouth, red patches or ulcers (also known as erythroplasia), any signs of lumps or masses developing in your mouth, thickening of your mucosa, and any other indications that something is abnormal with your oral health.
We will also ask you questions to help determine if there are any changes that we need to be concerned about, such as if you have noticed any hoarseness, a sore throat, or difficulty swallowing. We will also want to know if you have had any issues with a sore throat recently, as well.
You may be wondering why we are asking all these questions and examining your mouth so closely. The reason why we are interested in knowing these answers is that we are looking for any symptoms that you may develop oral cancer. While many people may mistakenly believe that oral cancer is automatically going to be painful and that they would know if something was wrong in their mouth, this is a dangerous way of thinking. Often, cancer can be entirely painless, which is why routine checkups are so vital.
If caught early, the prognosis for oral cancer is greatly improved. Factors that may increase your risk of developing it include the use of tobacco products (both smokeless tobacco and chewing tobacco), alcohol consumption, family history, past diagnosis of oral cancer, and a history of sun exposure (which can lead to oral cancer on your lips). If we determine that you do have oral cancer, we will want to start you on immediate treatment.
Treatment options include radiation, oral surgery, and chemotherapy. To prevent any post-treatment complications, we will make sure you are in otherwise good oral health (including treating any active tooth decay, infections, or periodontal disease) before starting treatment.
We Can Help
Early detection of oral cancer is vital to help increase your chances of a good outcome. To learn more about oral pathology and oral cancer, or to set up an appointment at our office for an oral cancer screening, please give us here at Stamford Oral & Maxillofacial Surgical Arts a call at (203) 325-2661 today!