Oral pathology is the science and medicine that helps diagnose and treat any condition that causes pain in the mouth. It involves research, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases affecting the oral and maxillofacial regions. The most common soft tissue injuries in the mouth include ulcers, red or white spots, or small bumps. These can be caused by a variety of different factors.
If abnormal tissue occurs in the mouth, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon may need to remove a small portion and send it for testing, known as a biopsy. The tissue samples are taken using a variety of cutting instruments and sent to a pathologist to determine if the sample is benign or malignant. The main function of the palate is to demarcate the nasal and oral cavities, without which the patient will have problems swallowing, eating, and speaking. A good dental cleaning routine and a healthy lifestyle can help prevent a variety of more serious oral health problems.
Although a black, hairy tongue doesn't seem like much fun, it's harmless and can be easily remedied by eliminating possible contributing factors (such as smoking) and practicing good oral hygiene. The shortest path to becoming an oral pathologist in the UK is to complete two years of general vocational training and then five years in a training course in diagnostic histopathology. This is followed by extensive clinical research that includes extraoral and intraoral hard and soft tissues. The following list is a general summary of diseases that may affect the oral and maxillofacial region; some are more common than others:
- Red or white spots
- Small bumps
- Cancerous or benign tissue
- Black, hairy tongue
Thanks to the experience of oral pathologists and continuous advances in this field, more is being discovered about diseases that affect the mouth all the time.