The inside of the mouth is normally lined with a special type of skin (mucosa) that is smooth and coral pink in color. Any alteration in this appearance 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 patches (erythroplakia) or whitish patches (leukoplakia) in the mouth 
  • A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily 
  • A lump or thickening on the skin lining the inside of the mouth
  • Difficulty in chewing or swallowing
  • Expansion of the bone of the upper and/or lower jaw (may be indicative of a cyst or tumor)

Ulcerated tongue cancer.

Premalignant tongue lesion.

Malignant tumor of the oral commissure.

Malignant tumor of the lower lip.

These changes can be detected on the lips, cheeks, palate, gum tissue around the teeth, tongue, face and/or neck. Pain does not always occur with pathology, and curiously, is not often associated with oral cancer. However, any patient with facial and/or oral pain without an obvious cause or reason may also be at risk for oral cancer.

We would recommend performing oral cancer self-examination monthly and remember that your mouth is one of your body's most important warning systems. Do not ignore suspicious lumps or sores.

Pathologic changes in the mouth can occur in the form of benign and malignant lesions of the mucosa, the bone (cysts and tumors) and salivary glands. Manifestations of systemic diseases affect the mouth and can be one of the first signs to appear, therefore a key point to diagnose problems in other tissues. The treatment for oral lesions depends on the cause. Treatment for oral lesions may include non surgical options like antibiotics, antiviral medications, antiseptic mouthwash, anti-inflammatory and pain medications. Additional treatment may include surgery to remove an oral lesion. 

A biopsy should be done for any suspicious premalignant or malignant lesion. A small piece of tissue is taken from the affected area and sent to the pathology lab. A diagnosis is obtained in 3-7 days. Then the oral and maxillofacial surgeon can perform the definitive surgery. Usually this is done in an office setting under intravenous sedation.  For the treatment of very aggressive benign lesions or malignant tumors patients need to be taken to the operating room and be treated under general anesthesia.

Surgery still remains as the main stay treatment for most of the oral lesions including oral cancer