Usually, when patients come to the dentist for a dental examination, there’s a preconceived assumption that the focus will be on their teeth alone.
Although that is often the case, it is not always so, as there are some other parts of the mouth and face that are examined as well. These areas include: areas around the mouth (lips, gums, hard and soft palate, and tongue); the mouth’s skin, muscles and glands in the neck; and the temporomandibular joint.
How are oral Diseases Discovered?
The process is a simple and painless one. The patient is asked about changes and symptoms he/she may have observed or is experiencing while his/her face, mouth, and neck are visually inspected. During the examination, certain areas may be palpated or probed, and if deemed necessary, additional tests or diagnostic imaging (X-rays) may be recommended.
If, during the process, an abnormality is discovered, such as a lesion (unusual localized change in your tissues), then further examination will take place.
Lesions may look like white or red spots or lumps (tumors) and are usually harmless, but it is advisable to perform a biopsy to be certain. A biopsy involves removing some of the infected area by creation of little incisions in the area of concern. Afterward, a sample of the tissue will be forwarded to a pathologist, who examines it under a microscope for signs of disease.
Some oral Diseases to look out for
Several oral diseases call for the concern of dentists, but the one condition that stands out of the pack is Oral Cancer. This is because it can be life-threatening if you fail to detect it early. You must, however, bear in mind that a vast majority of unusual growths are usually benign. Other oral diseases that we may screen for include:
Fibroma: this is thickened mass that usually feels like a lump in the lining of the mouth;
Leukoplakia: this refers to a condition that causes white patches to form inside the mouth. And although they are usually benign, the lesions may be pre-cancerous and are often biopsied;
Lichen Planus: this is an inflammatory disease that may sometimes cause discomfort;
Mucous Membrane Pemphigoid: is an autoimmune disease that may cause oral lesions, but is not life-threatening;
Pregnancy Tumors: these are benign red swellings that may form on gum tissue of pregnant women due to hormonal changes.
Note that some systemic diseases (such as diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and heart disease) may produce effects that are visible in the mouth.
When is a Biopsy Needed?
As stated, the majority of oral lesions are benign, but where the possibility that the growth could be cancerous or pre-cancerous exists, then, there is a need for a biopsy. The procedure may be performed in-office depending on how much tissue the doctor needs to remove. Otherwise, it can take place in a hospital setting. The process requires only local anesthesia and is not time-consuming. Incisions made are usually closed with self-dissolving sutures (stitches) that do not need to be removed.
Bleeding is normal for a while after incision(s), since oral tissues carry a lot of blood. However, you will receive follow-up instructions as needed. Besides, you will get directions on how to manage swelling and discomfort, when to take medication, and what to eat and drink.
It is vital that the patient rests and maintains good oral hygiene as this will encourage a speedy recuperation. And when the pathology report is complete (usually in a few days), the results will be handed over to the patient.