The specialty oral and maxillofacial pathology is concerned with the clinical evaluation, diagnosis, and study of the causes and effects of diseases affecting the mouth, head and neck, i.e., the oral and maxillofacial region.

When there is an abnormality in the mouth, head or neck, a referral is often made to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, because they have completed extensive training in oral pathology and have the ability to recognize, diagnose and treat various conditions involving the mouth and related areas.

Pathology is the branch of health care that studies the nature of disease and its causes, processes, development, and consequences.  It can enable the surgeon to narrow the diagnosis to two or three of the most likely possibilities. A biopsy may also be needed to be certain of a final diagnosis.  This enables the surgeon to develop a treatment plan that specifically addresses the type of lesion identified in the diagnosis.

Besides abnormal conditions of the oral cavity (mouth), oral pathology deals with diseases of the adjacent areas of the head and neck, which can range from something as simple as an infected tooth or a benign growth, to a life-threatening malignancy such as oral cancer.

The coral pink colored lining inside of the mouth is a special type of skin (mucosa) that is smooth.  Any alteration in its appearance should be considered a warning sign for a pathological process, the most serious being oral cancer.

These are some of the signs that there may be an onset of a pathological process or cancerous growth:

  • Reddish patches or whitish patches in the mouth
  • A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily
  • A lump or thickening on the lip, tongue or cheek
  • Chronic sore throat or hoarseness and/or difficulty in chewing or swallowing

If you have pain in the mouth or facial area without an obvious cause or reason, you may be at risk for oral cancer, but curiously, pain is not often associated with oral cancer.  Look for the changes listed above on the lips, cheeks, palate, and gum tissue around the teeth, tongue, face, and/or neck.   If they are present, see your doctor or maxillofacial surgeon.

If you are interested in oral and maxillofacial pathology in Costa Rica, fill out the “Find a Dentist” form on this page.  One of our patient advocates will reply to your needs.