Mouth Diseases Overview
Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology (Mouth Diseases) is a specialty of dentistry concerned with the non-surgical treatment of conditions occurring in the head and neck region.
Patients with mouth diseases can be seen by a variety of doctors, but oral and maxillofacial pathology is the only specialty of dentistry or medicine that concentrates specifically on the diagnosis (both clinically and microscopically) and non-surgical treatment of conditions that affect the mouth. General dentists usually treat tooth problems while specialists called periodontists treat periodontal (gum) diseases.
Although problems caused by cavities and gum disease are the most common mouth disorders, a wide variety of other diseases can affect the mouth and adjacent tissues. These diseases can be confusing to a doctor who has not been trained to recognize their frequently subtle distinguishing features. The oral and maxillofacial pathologist, on the other hand, is taught to recognize these subtle differences and make the most appropriate diagnosis. In some cases, diagnosis may require a biopsy or other tests to confirm or supplement the clinical findings. Once the correct diagnosis is made, the correct treatment can be provided.
Some of the conditions that would be evaluated by an oral pathologist would include
- burning mouth syndrome
- canker sores (an immune-mediated condition)
- cold sores (a herpes virus infection)
- geographic tongue (an inflammatory disorder)
- lichen planus (another immune-mediated condition).
- smokeless tobacco keratosis (in most cases, a harmless callous-type change)
Overall, the types of conditions seen by oral and maxillofacial pathologists include viral and fungal infections, tumors of the soft tissues of the mouth as well as the jawbones, autoimmune diseases and disorders of the salivary glands.
As specialists in the area of mouth diseases, oral and maxillofacial pathologists are usually able to determine the proper diagnosis more quickly and with a minimal amount of diagnostic testing compared to other practitioners. Ultimately, this permits the patient to receive proper therapy earlier and more cost-effectively.
For more information:
Go to the Mouth Diseases health topic.