Exploring Oral Pathology: A Closer Look at Three Diseases of the Mouth

When we think about dentists, and what dentists do, we tend to focus solely on their role as care providers for the teeth and gums. However, general dentists are the first line in identifying and, in the case of dentist with specialized training in oral surgery, treating serious oral health issues. Today, we’re discussing just a few oral pathologies often seen in the dental chair.

Oral Cancer

Oral cancer refers to the uncontrolled production of abnormal cells localized on the lips, tongue, inner cheeks, throat, or any other soft tissue of the mouth. Approximately 42,000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed in the United States every year. The survival rate after five years is low (about 43% will pass away before the five year mark). Experts point to the fact that many cases are not identified until they have reached a late stage. Regular dental checkups provide a reliable way to identify early signs of oral cancer, since general dentists are trained to look for abnormal cell growth. Treatment options include surgical removal of tumors, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

Sjogren’s Disease

This autoimmune disorder is caused when antibodies attack the salivary glands, parotid gland, and tear ducts, causing inflammation in those areas and a decreased production of saliva and tears. Approximately 4 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with Sjogren’s and about 90% of those diagnosed are women. Chronic dry mouth (clinically referred to a xerostomia) is one of the disorder’s primary symptoms, so dentists are often the first line in identifying the problem. Rheumatologists most often treat patients with Sjogren’s disease. However, since chronic dry mouth leads to an increased risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health related problems, Sjogren’s patients often work closely with their dentists to ensure optimal oral health.

Burning Mouth Syndrome

Burning mouth syndrome, or BMS, primarily affects women over the age of 45. As the name suggests, the primary symptom of BMS is a moderate-to-severe burning sensation of the tongue and other soft oral tissues. The burning sensation may go away for periods of time during the day, only to return later. Other symptoms include tingling or numbness, a persistent metallic taste, and dry mouth. Although BMS is categorized as an idiopathic disorder because its cause has yet to be determined, experts have identified some common factors shared by many sufferers, including nerve damage, hormonal fluctuation, Sjogren’s disease, fungal infections, and poorly fitting dentures..

About Shawn Hofkes, DDS

With advanced training in oral and maxillofacial surgery and oral pathology, Shawn Hofkes, DDS is qualified to diagnose and recommend treatments for a wide range of oral diseases from our comfortable, state-of-the-art dentist office in Cerritos, CA. To schedule your appointment or consultation with Dr. Hofkes, contact us today. We proudly serve patients of all ages from Cerritos, Lakewood, Long Beach, Buena Park, and all surrounding communities.