Oral Pathology

The inside of the mouth is normally lined with a special type of skin (mucosa) that is smooth and coral pink in color. Bone images are seen with x-rays, CTs, and MRIs. Any change or mutation in the normal appearance of bone, skin, or mucosa 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 pathologic process or cancerous growth:

  • Reddish (erythroplakia) or whitish (leukoplakia) spots or patches in the mouth or lips
  • Blue or black spot or lump in the mouth or lips
  • A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily
  • A lump or thickening on the skin, neck, or inside the mouth
  • Repeated infections or abscesses
  • Chronic sore throat or hoarseness
  • Difficulty in chewing or swallowing
  • Unusual patterns or shapes seen in jaw or teeth x-rays
  • Unusual slanting or movement of teeth
  • Missing or extra teeth
  • Expansion or bony growths in the jaws or face

These changes can be seen either on x-rays or on the surface of lips, cheeks, palate and gum tissue around the teeth, tongue, face and/or neck. Pain is often not present with pathology or oral cancer. However, any patient with facial or oral pain without an obvious cause may also be at risk for oral cancer.

Your mouth is one of your body’s most important warning systems. Your dentist should perform a pathology screening exam on a regular basis. Most of our pathology patients are referred by their dentist, physician, or emergency department. If you do not have a dental or medical referral, we encourage you to call for an appointment. Do not ignore suspicious lumps or sores. Please contact us so we may help. Biopsies are easily and quickly performed, usually with only local anesthetic.

All pathology tissue samples are sent to UCSF Oral Pathology Department for evaluation and diagnosis. The diagnosis usually is returned within one week. Dr. Leighty will personally go over your results with you and will also be in contact with your dentist or physician to inform him of the outcome. You will receive your own copy of the pathology report.

The purpose for a biopsy is to learn what the diagnosis of the lesion. When we have that diagnosis, we will help you to understand those results. If any further tests need to be performed, or any additional consultations or referrals are needed, we will assist you in making those contacts.

Finally, we are able to track our patients on a long term basis. For instance, if your diagnosis suggests a followup exam in one year, we will call you at the proper time to come back in to the office for a recall check or exam.