Oral Pathology

The mouth, or oral cavity, is lined by mucosa that is smooth and pink in colour. Any change in the lining or mucosa such as a growth, ulceration or development of a white or red patch may be a sign to an underlying disease process.

A growth or abnormality of the oral cavity that does not respond to medication or resolve in ten to fourteen days should be further evaluated. Such a lesion or growth is generally biopsied.

A biopsy is a surgical procedure in which a section or the entire growth is removed depending on the size, location and nature of the growth. Growths in the oral cavity are typically benign in nature. A malignant lesion, or oral cancer is rare in the general population; however, due to the innocuous appearance of some oral cancer all suspicious lesions should be biopsied.

Most biopsies are performed in the office using only a local anaesthetic. For those patients who prefer, a general anaesthesia can be administered. Following removal of the lesion the specimen or biopsy is sent to an oral pathologist for a final diagnosis. The diagnosis may dictate the need for possible further treatment.

Why a Biopsy?

Biopsies are actually simple procedures, involving the removal of oral tissue for examination by a pathologist. There are a number of reasons why your dentist could refer you to our surgeons for an oral biopsy:

  • You may have a lesion in your mouth that dentist cannot identify.

  • Or you may have a lesion that hasn't healed in over two weeks, or one that has grown larger over time.

  • Biopsies are also done to identify the cause of any thick, white lesions rising above your normal oral tissue, or to investigate any lumps below the skin surface.

  • Furthermore, biopsies are indicated when a person drinks or smokes heavily and also has suspicious areas of varying texture inside their mouth.

What is involved?

Your surgeon will use a local anaesthetic to numb the area to be sampled. Then, he may perform an excisional biopsy, or an incisional biopsy. Excisional biopsies involve removal of the entire lesion or lump, together with some normal tissue. Incisional biopsies require only taking a bit of the tissue, along with some normal tissue; these are typically the type of biopsy done for larger lesion areas. Once removed, we submit the tissues to a pathologist for microscopic evaluation. The pathologist will then provide results to our rooms within a week or less. Most of the time, biopsy results tell us that the tissue is benign, not cancerous. In such cases, your surgeon will advise you as to the best treatment.


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