The inside of the mouth is normally lined with a moistened gum tissue that is smooth and coral pink in color. Changes in appearance are usually the first warning signs a developing problem. The most serious of these is, of course, an oral cancer. The following can be signs at the beginning of a pathologic process or cancerous growth:
- Red or white patches in the gums
- Non-healing mouth sores or ulcers
- Lumps or masses in the gums or on the lips
- Persistent bleeding, pain, or numbness from an area of the mouth
These changes can be on any of the gum surfaces such as the lips, cheeks, palate (roof of the mouth), gum tissue around the teeth, the tongue, or the floor of the mouth. Pain and numbness can be a warning sign, but does not always occur. Any patient with unexplained pain or numbness may be at risk for oral cancer and should be evaluated immediately.
We recommend that patients perform an oral cancer self-examination monthly to look for anything that seems abnormal. Of course, your dentist and/or hygienist will look for any suspicious lesions at your regular cleanings and check-ups. If any abnormalities are detected, it is likely you will be referred to an oral & maxillofacial surgeon, like Dr. Abel, for further evaluation and treatment.
If Dr. Abel determines that you have a suspicious mouth lesion, he may recommend “biopsy.” Biopsy consists of him obtaining a piece of the tissue in question. This procedure requires the administration of local anesthesia, and in certain cases, this can be supplemented with various forms of sedation. The removed tissue specimen is then placed into a jar of a preservative solution and sent to a pathologist for diagnosis. It is important that you follow up with Dr. Abel after any biopsy procedure for him to review with you your tissue diagnosis, as this will determine the possible need for further treatment.