Oral Diagnosis & Biopsies
Complete Exam by Oral Surgeon
When a oral surgeon examines a patient, they look at more than just teeth. They look in and around the oral cavity for anything that appears abnormal, such as color changes, ulcerations, or swellings. They also assess the lips, tongue, oral mucosa, gingiva, and palatal tissues. A complete dental examination may be your first line of defense for detecting particular oral or systemic ailments.
The oral surgeon will ask you about your oral hygiene habits and any changes you’ve noticed in your mouth recently. They will visually inspect your oral tissues and use instruments to examine areas that are difficult to see. They may also palpate (feel) your oral tissues for any lumps or swellings. In some cases, the dentist may order x-rays to get a better look at the teeth and surrounding structures.
Sometimes an abnormality will be found during an oral examination that requires further investigation. In this case, the oral surgeon may perform a biopsy procedure, which is the removal of oral tissue for closer examination in a laboratory setting by a pathologist.
Oral Diseases to Look For
Some oral diseases, such as gingivitis and periodontitis, are easy to spot during an oral examination, and others, such as oral cancer, may not be obvious without further testing.
The following oral diseases may be detected during an oral examination:
- Leukoplakia: A condition in which white patches of oral mucosa appear that cannot be removed by rinsing. Usually, they are benign, but they are often biopsied to get an accurate diagnosis.
- Fibroma: A non-cancerous growth of oral tissue that may feel like a bump.
- Odontogenic Tumors: Non-cancerous oral lesions caused by exuberant growth of cells used in the development of tooth and periodontal structures.
- Oral cancer: A malignancy affecting the oral tissues and pharynx. Early detection is key to treating oral cancer successfully, which is why oral examinations are so important for your overall oral health.
- Lichen Planus: A chronic autoimmune disease that affects the oral mucosa and skin.
- Oral candidiasis: Also known as thrush, oral candidiasis is a fungal infection of the oral mucosa that can occur in anyone but is more common in those with compromised immune systems.
- Mucous Membrane Pemphigoid: MMP is an oral condition that affects the oral mucosa and skin, causing blistering and ulceration.
- “Pregnancy tumors”: Non-cancerous growths that may occur on the gums of pregnant women.
Oral cancer is very treatable, especially when it is detected early. That’s why oral examinations are so important. During an oral cancer screening, a dentist or hygienist will look closely at the oral and pharyngeal tissues, looking for signs of oral cancer or precancerous lesions, such as leukoplakia or oral candidiasis. They will also feel for any lumps or swellings. If they notice something abnormal the patient will be scheduled to see one of the oral surgeons for an evaluation and treatment.
Tobacco use is the leading cause of oral cancer, including cigarettes, cigars, and pipes. If you use tobacco in any form, be sure to get oral cancer screenings more frequently.
HPV, oral herpes, and other oral infections can cause oral cancer. That’s why oral examinations are so important – they are your first line of defense against oral cancer. Approximately 42 million Americans are infected with HPV, the most prevalent sexually transmitted disease in the United States. It has been reported that at least half of all sexually active people will get it during their lives. Most strains lead to different symptoms like warts that the body can fight. But HPV16 has been linked to cervical cancer and is now known to be responsible for new cases of oral cancer.
Another oral condition that may be detected during oral examination is geographic tongue. Geographic tongue is a benign oral condition characterized by the appearance of smooth, red patches on the tongue without any signs of oral cancer. These patches and their borders have irregular shapes and tend to change in size and location.
The type of biopsy performed will depend on the location and size of the lesion. Some oral biopsies may be a simple in-office procedure, while others will require a trip to an oral surgeon.
The most common types of oral biopsy are:
- Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy (FNA): A tiny biopsy needle is used to aspirate cells from a growth or lesion. The cells are then examined under a microscope to look for cancer cells.
- Punch Biopsy: A small circular cutter is used to remove a small piece of tissue from the growth or lesion. The biopsy sample is then examined under a microscope to look for cancer cells.
- Incisional Biopsy: A small incision is made in the oral tissue to remove a part of the growth or lesion. The tissue sample is then examined under a microscope to look for cancer cells.
- Excisional Biopsy: In this procedure, the entire growth or lesion is removed. The tissue is then examined under a microscope to look for cancer cells.
After the biopsy, it is important to keep the area clean and free of irritants. You may be given a special oral rinse to use after eating and brushing your teeth. Avoid using tobacco products and alcohol for at least 24 hours after the biopsy. You may also be given a prescription for pain medication to help with any discomfort.
The oral tissue will take some time to heal, so it is important to be gentle with the area. Avoid eating hard or crunchy foods and avoid touching the area with your tongue.
The AZ Difference
At AZ Dental, we take oral health seriously. Oral examinations are an important part of oral health, and they can help catch oral cancer and other diseases in the early stages. If you have any oral health concerns or questions, we encourage you to come to see us at AZ Dental today
Our skilled surgeons will work with you to provide the best oral care possible, helping you achieve and maintain healthy, beautiful teeth and gums. So don’t wait – contact us today to schedule your appointment!