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Oral Pathology


As oral and maxillofacial surgeons, we are asked to evaluate conditions in the oral cavity and associated anatomical structures as to whether it is a normal condition or pathological condition. Frequently asked questions concerning oral pathology include some of the following:

Is it cancer?

Various types of changes can occur in the lining mucosa of the mouth, and cancer can develop in some cases. It is not frequent that we see patients with an oral cancer, but as oral surgeons we are asked frequently to evaluate patients for changes in the mouth, in the salivary glands, and in the bone of the upper and lower jaws. Evaluations are done through a medical history and direct examination to understand the history of the problem and determine the anatomical location, the color, shape and texture of the surface or changes in the mucosa or lining of the mouth. Different types of radiographs (x-rays) are done to determine if any changes have occurred in the bone of the jaws. Changes in the bone on imaging may indicate pathology within the bone. A pathologist may need to do a biopsy of the tissue and analyze it under a microscope.  This is done with most lesions to have an understanding of the disease process and obtain a diagnosis. Cancer can occur in the oral region, and if any changes are apparent on an exam, patients may be referred to one of the doctors at Austin Oral Surgery to rule out cancer through a thorough evaluation.

What happens with impacted teeth?

Pathology can occur around any impacted tooth. This may be a routine problem of infection, or it could be a severe problem of cyst formation or tumor development. This is the reason for evaluating and extracting impacted teeth. If impacted teeth are not extracted, they should be evaluated periodically to be certain that pathology does not develop.

How often do I need to be checked for oral disease?

Most patients are seen by their dentist and dental hygienist two or three times a year where an exam of the oral cavity is performed, but some clinical conditions require more frequent evaluation by the dentist or oral surgeon. Periodic self-examination is important to detect any lumps, swelling, ulcers, tender spots or loose teeth which may have developed over time.

What do I need to do about this?

Once a diagnosis has been confirmed, treatment may be necessary. Most of the oral pathological diagnoses can be managed by our oral surgeons, but a referral may be necessary to another physician or dentist, depending on the final diagnosis. Complex cases may require extensive planning and discussion. At Austin Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Associates, the doctors often rely on each other to discuss these cases and establish the treatment plan most beneficial for the patient.

Will my insurance cover this?

If you have both dental and medical insurance, the evaluation and treatment will usually be a covered benefit. Each insurance, whether dental or medical, may have limits to their benefits, and Austin Oral and Maxillofacial office staff can help determine your benefits.

For questions or to schedule a consultation, please call us at 512-402-6677.