The inside of the mouth is normally lined with a special type of skin (mucosa) that is smooth and coral pink in color. Any alteration in this appearance could be a warning sign for a pathological process. The most serious of these is oral cancer. The following can be signs at the beginning of a pathological process or cancerous growth:
- Reddish patches (erythroplasia) or whitish patches (leukoplakia) in the mouth
- A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily
- A lump or thickening on the skin lining the inside of the mouth
- Chronic sore throat or hoarseness and/or difficulty in chewing or swallowing
These changes can be detected on the lips, cheeks, palate, and gum tissue around the teeth, tongue, face, and/or neck. Pain does not always occur with pathology, and curiously, is not often associated with oral cancer. However, any patient with facial and/or oral pain without an obvious cause or reason may also be at risk for oral cancer.
In addition to cancer, there are many benign (non-cancerous) tumors, cysts, and growths that can occur in the soft tissues and bones of the face and mouth. These lesions may be nothing more than a small swelling, but some of them can grow to very large sizes. Lesions within the bones may be detected on dental x-rays, even when no symptoms are present. Despite being benign, these lesions can often destroy a significant amount of tissue. Removal of these lesions is often necessary to prevent any further facial deformity. Sometimes bone grafting and facial reconstruction may be needed to reconstruct a defect created by pathology.
We would recommend performing a self, oral cancer self-examination monthly. Remember that your mouth is one of your body’s most important warning systems. Do not ignore suspicious lumps or sores. Your dentist will also perform an oral cancer screening periodically (typically every 6 months). Please contact us so we can assist you with any questions or concerns.