You may think of your dentist as caring only about the teeth and gums in your mouth. But in fact, all dentists are trained to some degree in oral pathology as well. Oral pathology is the study and treatment of all the diseases and illnesses that affect the mouth in particular, including oral cancers. While you may still need to see an oral pathology specialist for specific treatments, your dentist is generally the first line of defense against diseases that could affect your mucous membranes, tongue, and even throat. Learn more about how oral pathology plays an important role in each dental exam you receive here at Camelot Dental Group.
What is Oral Pathology?
The study of oral pathology involves all of the diseases that can affect the area in or around the mouth. This includes the lips, mucous membranes inside the mouth, gum tissue, tongue, and upper palate area. Tests and exams that fall into this category will check for serious diseases of the mouth, including but not limited to oral cancer. Even if cancer is ruled out, serious symptoms like white and red patches in the mouth can indicate an illness that requires a specialist’s attention. Therefore, it’s important for every dentist to have some awareness of basic oral pathology so they can help direct their patients to the right treatment option if an issue is discovered during a routine exam.
What Kinds of Diseases Fall Under Oral Pathology?
Oral cancer is perhaps the most serious issue that dentists are looking for during exams. Lumps, lesions, sores that don’t heal quickly, and discolored patches inside the mouth are all early warning signs. But even less serious oral health concerns are covered within this medical specialty. Canker sores, thrush, and dry mouth are three very common illnesses of the mouth that require attention and care. Even if a small lesion is linked to the herpes virus rather than confirmed as a warning sign of oral cancer, you may still need some kind of treatment to properly heal the wound and prevent secondary infections. Oral pathology includes the treatment of serious and less-threatening illnesses alike, as long as they occur in or around the mouth.
Warning Signs You Need an Oral Pathology Exam
During your routine dental exam, your dentist will check your entire mouth for obvious warning signs of cancer and other health issues. If you’re doing a self-exam at home and discover any of the following, call your dentist for a timely exam to determine what’s going on:
- New lumps or growths anywhere in the mouth or on the lip
- Sores or wounds that don’t close within one to two days
- Infections in the cheek, tongue, or gum tissue
- Bleeding from any part of the lip, tongue, or inner lining of the mouth that can’t be explained
- A bad taste in the mouth that won’t go away
- Red or white discoloration inside the mouth, especially in distinct patches
- Signs of infection like swelling, redness, heat, or pain.
How to Reduce Your Risk Factors for Oral Diseases
Many of the things you do to take care of your general health, such as exercising and eating right, go a long way in protecting you from oral disease as well. Stop smoking and reduce your drinking to reduce your risk factors for oral cancer, thrush, and many more illnesses of the mouth. Take care to brush and floss well so that bacteria levels are reduced, preventing secondary infection if you get a small wound in the mouth. Drink plenty of water for the same reason. If you have a history of oral cancer in your family or have been diagnosed with cancer of any form, your dentist may recommend routine in-depth exams to rule out the warning signs of oral cancer in particular.
When Do You Need a Specialist?
While all dentists have some training in oral pathology, other doctors specialize in it. Your regular dentist will likely refer you for treatment from an oncologist if they suspect oral cancer, possibly after handling the necessary biopsies. For less serious cases of oral disease like thrush or black hairy tongue, you’ll likely get all the treatment you need at the dentist’s office. Sometimes, only medication or a quick procedure is needed to help resolve a minor concern. See your dentist first since they can best assess what’s going on inside your mouth and help direct you to any further treatment you might need.
Embrace a holistic approach to taking care of your oral health and visit us here at Camelot Dental Group. Our team will work hard to support your smile, including checking for other diseases that can affect the mouth and lips. Even your routine cleaning and exam with us will serve as an important oral pathology exam to spot early warning signs. Schedule your next appointment today.