Sores, lumps and bumps in the mouth
Oral Exams for Suspicious Areas
Comprehensive oral care should include a thorough evaluation for any abnormal areas in your mouth. Drs. Bird and Johnson may perform this evaluation in the event your general dentist detects an area that requires further evaluation and we are also happy to see and evaluate those who have discovered a suspicious area themselves. Please know that you do not need a referral from another health care provider to be seen and evaluated in our office. The oral examination we perform is quick, painless and focuses on your teeth, gums, tongue, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, tonsilar area and throat.
What Happens if We Find Something?
Occasionally, a patient will have an area in the mouth that requires further investigation. This usually means an oral biopsy: a quick procedure performed in our office under local anesthesia. During the biopsy procedure either a small piece or the entire suspicious area will be removed and sent for evaluation. Depending on the type of suspicious tissue, the biopsy we perform may be done using a carbon dioxide laser. The tissue is sent to a laboratory where specialized doctors called pathologists examine the tissue under a microscope. This allows the pathologist to examine the individual cells from the suspicious area and render a diagnosis. After approximately one week, the pathologists report is reviewed with the patient in our office.
After the Diagnosis is Determined
As stated before, the majority of oral lesions are harmless and once removed, do not return in most instances. Occasionally, an area that was biopsied may require further treatment such as additional surgery or follow up appointments.
"Is it oral cancer?"
Any area that is suspicious is biopsied in our office. The diagnosis of oral cancer is, thankfully, rare but does occur. Oral cancer is the sixth most common type of cancer and, if left undiagnosed and untreated, can be deadly. The most common risk factor for oral cancer is tobacco use (cigarettes, cigars, pipes and even smokeless, or chewing tobacco). Alcohol use is also another major risk factor in developing oral cancer. Depending on the size of the cancer and its location, there are several things that might happen. A small, localized cancer is sometimes treated with a wide excision of the area. More aggressive, larger cancers, or cancers that are present in areas that are hard to get to may require further tests such as CAT scans and referral to a head and neck surgeon (ENT surgeon), and an Oncologist for evaluation and treatment.
The Bottom Line:
Get any suspicious area present for more than two weeks checked out as soon as possible!