Oral Pathology

We regularly receive referrals from physicians and dentists asking us to evaluate changes to various soft tissue in the mouth.  In order to provide a specific diagnosis Dr Higashi will send a sample of tissue to the lab for evaluation.  This procedure is usually done with local anesthetic and we receive the results in approximately two weeks.

Occasionally a tissue sample is collected during a tooth extraction surgery.  If the patient is under General Anesthesia they will be unaware of the  procedure.

While it is uncommon to discover cancer it is valuable to “rule it out”.  It is more common for the lab report to discuss a “cyst” — particularly those samples gathered in conjunction with wisdom tooth extractions.    Although a cyst is not cancer and not dangerous, it  can re-grow.  We will communicate your results and give you specific instructions about following up with your regular dentist. 

The inside of the mouth is normally lined with a special type of skin (mucosa) that is smooth and 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 or under the jaw.
  • Chronic sore throat or hoarseness.
  • Difficulty in mouth opening, chewing or swallowing.

These changes can be detected on the lips, cheeks, palate, and 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 an 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. Please contact us so we may help.